October 22, 2021

Schools catching up to drivers who pass buses

Homer Central district orders eight vehicles built with stop-arm cameras

Todd R. McAdam/contributing photographer

A Cortland County sheriff’s officer follows a Homer Central School District bus in this March 2019 Cortland Standard file photo.

Greater Cortland area schools are already beginning to equip buses with cameras to catch motorists who pass them illegally, even as a new state law permits them to.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last week permitting districts to start using stop-arm cameras on their buses. It takes effect Sept. 5.

In Cortland County the Homer Central School District is already getting behind the legislation and has ordered eight buses with stop-arm cameras — and will continue ordering buses in the future with cameras, Superintendent Tom Turck said Friday.

A stop-arm camera is mounted on the stop sign that swings out when a bus halts to pick up or drop off passengers.

“We recognize the benefit of having it so we’ve gone ahead and done it,” Turck said. “Student safety is foremost for us, just like any superintendent would say.”

The school district is no stranger to complaints for people passing buses. Turck said he could recall at least twice last year where he received calls from people in neighborhoods who noticed motorist passing stopped buses.

“We’ve had this concern for quite some time,” Turck said.

Jeff Delia, the district’s transportation supervisor, said last spring that the district has trouble in some areas, including routes along Highland Road, Kinney Gulf Road and Route 222, as well as Route 13 coming from Truxton.

In April, Cortland County sheriff’s officers spent days following school buses in the county to ensure motorists would not pass.

During Operation Safe Stop in March 2018, 850 people across the state were ticketed for ignoring school bus safety laws, according to a news
release from the governor’s office.

“Anything that protects the kids is a good thing,” said Capt. Rob Derksen of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office.

The department has caught the license plates of motorists who have passed buses, using cameras that buses often have installed in the front and back of a bus. Stop-arm cameras would make it even easier.

“It’s got a better angle of the license plate number,” he said.

When a bus comes to a stop and the stop signs are extended, the camera would automatically start recording. People caught passing a bus would receive a $250 ticket, more for repeat offenders. The revenue from the fines would be split between the school district and the municipalities.

At the end of the day it’s about ensuring kids’ safety.

“No parent should ever have to worry that their child’s bus ride to and from school is anything other than safe and easy,” Cuomo said last week.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.