NEW YORK (WWTI) – Governor Kathy Hochul released a new video highlighting the importance of keeping children safe as the school year starts. According to the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, approximately 50,000 drivers pass stopped school buses with red lights flashing statewide each school day.     

“The fact remains that way too many motorists are still passing stopped school buses, in the process endangering children and other drivers. As New Yorkers, let’s collectively make it our goal to make this school year a safe one for all.”   

Governor Kathy Hochul

The safest way to transport children to and from school is by bus, students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a school bus instead of traveling by car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

However, when walking to the bus and while buses are loading and unloading students, kids become more vulnerable to injury. This is largely due to a high frequency of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses.   

As a reminder, it is illegal in NY to pass a stopped school bus when the large red visual sign is in operation, flashing lights mean the bus is picking up or discharging students.

All motorists are required to stop, whether approaching a stopped school bus from the front or from the rear, whenever their visual signal is in operation on any public highway, street or private road you must stop.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has proposed changes to DMV regulations to increase violation points for passing a stopped school bus, as part of its efforts to address dangerous driving and to remove dangerous drivers on the road. 

“Every driver has a responsibility to our children to ensure they arrive safely at school each day. We count on drivers to do the right thing and come to a complete stop when approaching a school bus stopped with red lights flashing. Knowing that school buses are on the roads once again, building a few extra minutes into your commute each day and eliminating distractions inside your vehicle are just a few ways we can help keep students safe.”  

New York State DMV Commissioner and GTSC Chair Mark J.F. Schroeder   

Here are some more helpful tips for drivers:  

  • School buses make frequent stops, including at all railroad crossings, be patient, slow down and be prepared to stop for them;  
  • Yellow lights mean the bus is going to stop, so slow down;  
  • Look for children at bus stops and those walking to bus stops, stay alert for children as they may dart into the street without looking for traffic;  
  • Look before you back out of your driveway or garage and watch for children walking in the street, especially where there are no sidewalks;   
  • Watch carefully for children in the morning and afternoon; and
  • Stay alert, never use electronic devices while driving and be sure to actively focus on the road and your surroundings.   

Here are some tips for parents to talk about with their kids:  

  • Be an early bird, be at the bus stop five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive;
  • Look carefully to the left, right and left again if you must cross the street;
  • Maintain a safe distance by standing at least six feet away from the curb when waiting for the school bus;
  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says it’s okay to step onto the bus;  
  • When exiting the bus, look to the rear of the bus to ensure no cars are coming then take five giant steps straight out the bus door and out of the danger zone — areas around buses where the driver can’t see you;
  • Remain visible to the bus driver at all times and never walk behind the bus; and
  • If you need to cross in front of the bus, make sure you make eye contact with the driver and wait for the driver to signal you before you cross.

More information on school bus safety is available on the New York State Traffic Safety website.