Passing a stopped school bus is illegal and never a good idea.
Yet, people still do it, which is why districts in Niagara County are beginning to acquire new pieces of technology aimed at capturing offenders in the act.
In the wake of the recent passage of a state law allowing cameras to be installed on the stop arms of school buses, several local districts have taken steps to acquire the equipment and begin using them on the road.
"We gotta protect our kids. There is no reason to wait," said Niagara Falls School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie.
Last week, officials in the Falls announced that the district is participating in a pilot program with a company called BusPatrol America. Under the program, the company provided bus cameras to the school district for free.
The two buses have a box on the side where the stop arm comes out and there are seven cameras in the box that can pick up the vehicle's plate information. The video footage is held in cloud storage.
Laurrie said the district has so far installed the new technology on two buses. On the first day they were used, the district caught 20 people passing stopped school buses in violation of the law.
"I think that's a lot," Laurrie said. "I didn't believe it, but I saw the data and the film."
Officials with the City of Lockport, the Lockport Police Department, the Lockport City School District and Ridge Road Express have confirmed that Lockport might soon get involved in the same system.
Mayor Michelle Roman said she and Acting Lockport Police Chief Douglas Haak recently met with representatives from BusPatrol.
"There is a lot of moving parts, but everybody wants our kids safe," Roman said.
LCSD Superintendent Michelle Bradley said she met with company official this week, while noting that the district's potential involvement in the program is still in the "beginning stages."
Because the Lockport City School District includes multiple municipalities a county resolution is needed to allow the district to acquire the monitoring equipment for buses.
The district would only be required to pass a resolution saying for the county to go forward with the technology, Deborah Coder, assistant superintendent of finance and management services, said.
Both Roman and Bradley noted that Ridge Road Express, the district's contracted transportation company, would also have to agree to add the technology to its buses.
Earlier this week, Gary Woodcock, the general manager for Ridge Road Express, confirmed the companies are discussing the proposals.
During the legislature's meeting on Tuesday, Niagara County lawmakers are expected to consider a resolution calling for school buses in districts across the county to be equipped with photo violation monitoring systems in an effort to protect students and catch those who unlawfully pass stopped school buses.
The resolution notes that “approximately 1.5 million” students ride the bus to and from school each year in New York state. Based on 2018 law enforcement efforts targeting offenders passing school buses, it is estimated that instances of someone passing a stopped school bus occurred over 150,000 times in a 180-day school year, the county resolution notes.
Legislature Chairman Keith McNall, R-Lockport, said cameras are necessary because every day motorists pass stopped school buses, putting children's lives in danger.
"Those drivers need to be held accountable, and by equipping our school buses with cameras, drivers will be less likely to continue their reckless behavior," McNall said.