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School bus ignition interlocks too extreme a response for drivers' DWI

School bus ignition interlocks too extreme a response for drivers' DWI

Cost could be as high as $100 million statewide

After four accidents on Long Island in six months in which school bus drivers allegedly drove drunk, Sen. Charles Fuschillo, R-Merrick, has signed on as co-sponsor of a bill that would make ignition interlocks standard equipment on school buses by 2015. While such a move would indeed ensure the sobriety of bus drivers, it seems like an overreaction. Certainly there are more cost-effective ways of dealing with a problem that, while alarming, hardly seems that widespread.

One can properly assume that if there were four school bus accidents over a six-month period in which drunken driving was suspected, a problem does exist. But it’s not like there are stories about it happening all the time, and an Internet search doesn’t turn up that many incidents of it.

Installing and maintaining ignition interlocks in buses would be expensive, costing as much as $100 million a year, according to a bus industry official who attended Fuschillo’s hearing last week. Given how pressed most school budgets are, and the state’s reluctance to provide additional funds for education, that seems like a luxury few districts could afford.

Some less-expensive alternatives exist: conducting occasional random drug and alcohol tests on drivers; regularly stationing a supervisor near the time clock to visually monitor drivers at the start of their shifts; even having a Breathalyzer near the time clock, using it to test all drivers before they head out on their routes.

While drunken bus drivers are a concern, the presumption must remain that the overwhelming majority of them take their responsibility seriously and wouldn’t dream of showing up for work intoxicated. If school districts, or the companies they hire to provide their bus service, took one of these lesser measures and found out otherwise, maybe then an interlock law would be justified.

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