Schenectady considers school bus stop-arm camera program

A school bus in front of a school

A Schenectady City School District bus is parked in front of Mont Pleasant Middle School. The City Council is considering a law to put speed cameras of the stop arms of city school buses.

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SCHENECTADY — Schenectady school buses could soon be outfitted with stop-arm cameras aimed at catching motorists who flout traffic laws by passing school buses that are picking up children.

A state law passed in 2019 authorizes municipalities and districts to place cameras on school bus stop signs to hold vehicle owners responsible for vehicles passing a stopped school bus. During its Public Safety Committee meeting on Monday, the City Council approved a resolution to call for a public hearing on a local law to implement a stop-arm camera program.

Under the terms of the proposed local law, the city would fund the program and collect revenue from traffic tickets emanating from the initiative.

The cameras are designed to capture images of vehicles illegally passing stopped buses, with the images subsequently transmitted to the municipality and used to identify the vehicle owners. Violators would receive a $250 ticket for the first offense, with $275 for a second violation committed within 18 months of the first violation and $300 for a third violation.

“It happens often where people go around buses when they’re stopped,” Schenectady City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said on Tuesday. “So it’s a safety mechanism. It’s the ability to have a camera on the arm if God forbid something bad happens we are able to identify what happened. So the technology and safety piece is what we care about.”

The City Council must first pass a local law pertaining to the program before the school board can adopt the program.

“Once the City Council approves it, we’ll bring it back to our board for them to approve it as well,” Soler said. “But the City Council is the first piece of that process.”

In a presentation during the council’s Jan. 17 Public Safety Committee meeting, Steve Randazzo, executive vice president of BusPatrol America, pitched the City Council on the school bus camera program.

“Essentially if a car right now passes a stopped school bus, they more or less are getting away with it because that’s not generally how we police our communities,” he told the council. “You almost have to be unlucky in a sense to have a police officer sitting behind the school bus and witnessing the incident and going after the driver and giving him or her a ticket.”

Randazzo said BusPatrol currently outfits 6,925 school buses nationwide in over 100 school districts with camera systems that help monitor traffic.

“I think people are just more distracted behind the wheel than ever before,” he said. “People are texting and driving and people are just distracted behind the wheel in general because cars are built with lots of bells and whistles that are kind of distracting us. There’s also an inefficient sense of enforcement.”

Council President Marion Porterfield said the council consulted with the school district about the program before weighing the local law.

“We don’t have control of the school buses, so we wanted to make sure that the entity that works with the school buses was onboard with having this particular type of program before we started to move it forward and consider getting a local law,” she said.

City Councilman John Polimeni said he supports the stop-arm camera program but would like to see the city go further in protecting students.

“I think it’s worthy, but I asked for home rule legislation so that the city could put speed cameras around the school district, which quite frankly would be a much more beneficial program than a stop-sign camera,” he said on Tuesday. “Because if we can control the speeding around the school, we’re going to be making the kids much more safe.”

Categories: News, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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