Will record vehicles that illegally pass during stops
The Putnam County Legislature voted 8 to 0 on Tuesday (April 5) to equip school buses with cameras to identify vehicles that illegally pass buses that have stopped to pick up or drop off students.
Meeting in Carmel, the legislators agreed to establish a program with school districts such as Haldane and Garrison to use the cameras to photograph or video-record cars that violate safety laws, helping police agencies to find and fine drivers.
The cameras, installed on the exterior of the bus, work in tandem with the red stop-sign arm that extends when the bus stops for students.
The images and recordings of suspected violations would be sent to the county and destroyed 90 days after resolution of a case. Fines range from $250 for the first offense to $300 for the third or subsequent violations within 18 months.
The legislative resolution authorizing the project did not state how much it would cost or whether the county would run the program directly or, instead, outsource its management to a private company.
However, in a presentation to the Legislature’s Protective Services Committee in February, Jean Souliere, chief executive of BusPatrol, a firm that provides and monitors school bus camera systems in several states and Canadian provinces, said that a camera program is “100 percent violator-funded” by fines.
Citing data from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, Souliere said that an estimated 17 million school bus stop-arm traffic violations occur annually in the U.S. School bus camera systems discourage infractions, he added, and “98 percent of the violators who get a ticket don’t illegally pass a school bus a second time.”
BusPatrol, which launched a program in Dutchess County earlier this year, runs a pilot project in Westchester County and oversees cameras in 71 school districts in Suffolk County, he said.
In 2019, New York State adopted a law permitting school bus cameras. Eight months later, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all states enact such legislation.
Putnam County Sheriff Kevin McConville told the Protective Services Committee that “we support this effort 100 percent.” Legislators were equally enthusiastic.
“These are tight roads in the county up here. It just makes no sense to pass a school bus that has a stop sign, flashing lights, etc.,” said Legislator Joseph Castellano of Brewster. “This will put an end to it.”
“This obviously is a win-win for everybody,” said Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley. But she also urged that as Putnam prepares such measures it discuss them with leaders of the local jurisdictions. In this case, she said, school officials in her district did not know of the bus camera plans until she alerted them.
In other business …
- Montgomery similarly criticized Putnam’s practice of having a small committee working behind the scenes to draft county charter amendments that are sent to the Legislature for ratification. “There is no bipartisan approach to this,” said Montgomery, the Legislature’s sole Democrat. “We should have community input,” as well, when changing the charter, she said, before casting the lone “no” vote on a routine charter revision involving the finance commissioner’s office.
- Legislators unanimously approved the Putnam Arts Council’s choice of 13 grant recipients, including the Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison ($1,300 for “artist days”); Chapel Restoration in Cold Spring ($1,000 for its Sunday afternoon music series); Garrison Landing Association ($800 for the Aery Theater Co. one-act play competition); and Butterfield Library in Cold Spring ($800 for its writers reading program).