Nassau County Executive Laura Curran recently announced that the county will be releasing a Request For Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the county’s School Bus Safety program. This is the first step in the rollout of a program, which will enable school districts to install new bus cameras in order to identify drivers who illegally pass a bus that is stopped to drop off and pick up children. The RFEI will allow the county and school districts to learn what vendors provide this service and the best way to implement the program.
“My main priority is to ensure the health and safety of our residents, especially young people,” Curran said. “The School Bus Safety program will give Nassau’s school districts the option to install new bus cameras, which will help us stop the dangerous practice of recklessly passing a school bus when the stop sign is extended.”
In October of last year, Curran signed legislation that will allow the county and school districts to enter into intermunicipal agreements for the installation of school bus cameras that would record drivers who unlawfully pass stopped school buses. The cameras will be installed on the stop arm of participating districts’ school buses and will monitor vehicles that fail to stop for a school bus that displays a red visual signal and stop-arm. The county will bear the cost of equipment and recoup those expenses through fines paid by violators.
In order to achieve a successful result from the program, Curran is working closely with schools and inviting superintendents to fill out a survey to identify their needs and wants for the program. Following those results there will be an informational seminar, using information from the RFEI, with school officials outlining the details and implementation of the program.
Once the school districts’ input has been gathered, the county intends to solicit proposals from school bus photo monitoring system operators through an RFP process and award a contract for the installation, maintenance, operation and use of school bus camera systems as well as for the proper handling and custody of such recorded images, and for the forwarding of such images and data to the county. The Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency will issue and process the infraction notices, as well as administer collection of fines and penalties.
The county is also launching a robust public awareness campaign, so residents are not caught off guard by the new program. The multimedia public awareness campaign will include public service announcements (PSAs) across various social media platforms. For the purpose of informing and educating the owners of motor vehicles about the program, during the first 30-day period of implementation, the county will issue a written warning instead of a notice of liability to owners of motor vehicles who would otherwise be issued a notice of liability for illegally passing a school bus.
Mineola resident Laura Crowley Xanthus said that cars driving around school bus stop signs are dangerous, recalling one incident that happened nearby.
“I stand on the corner of Old Country Road across from the Garden City water tower construction and down the block from the third rail project with my grandchild every morning,” she said. “It is an impossibly dangerous situation. School buses from Garden City stop on the south side of [Old Country Road] and from Mineola on the north side. They stop for maybe four minutes depending on how many kids get on the bus (four at our stop), yet cars literally swerve and speed around the car in front of them to go through the stop signs. This [is] with all the construction barricades up. It seems to me it is only a matter of time until there is a serious accident. I think the cameras on school buses is long overdue to possibly stem the flow of these lawless drivers.”
Resident Verna Funk remembered one sad moment that occurred a long time ago due to a negligent driver.
“With the amount of ‘you don’t have to respect laws, even common sense laws,’ how would you prosecute?” she asked. “Long ago the rail road was raised because of impatient drivers and a van of students. The driver took an impulsive move that cost many lives. No more respect for human lives. [It’s] sad.”
“I drive that way [Old Country Road] to work sometimes,” resident Patti Purdy said. “I’ve seen people pass the school buses.”
It seems that local school buses don’t abide by the extended stop sign either, according to Mineola resident Destinee Fiorillo.
“I have had to call the police several times to ask for an officer to monitor the bus stop for the middle school,” she said. “Several times a week cars go through the intersection when the bus is stopped, lights flashing and stop arm out. Hell, even one of the small Mineola school buses will regularly go through.”
While the program is not expected to be fully implemented until 2021, the county will be providing updated information to the public about the process and implementation.
The Mineola Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Nagler declined to comment about the potential new program when the Mineola American reached out.
For more information about the new program, visit www.nassaucountyny.gov/4895/School-Bus-Safety-Program.