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School's Starting: Officials Want Drivers to be More Safe

Tuesday was back to school already for some school districts and a new state law allows districts to bring video evidence taken by digital cameras to the authorities when drivers pass a stopped school bus. Fayetteville Manlius has installed five additional cameras and a total of eight buses are now equipped with more likely on the way. Superintendent Craig Tice says the video evidence will hold drivers accountable. 

"They're about two thousand dollars each, and we are hopeful that they will serve as a deterrent by capturing the images of any cars that will be passing the stopped school bus with the red lights on."

Onondaga County authorities are working with school districts who have the cameras. Sheriff Conway says the digital cameras will greatly increase their capabilities but drivers still need to be aware.

The new stop-arm cameras will take a photo of the car's license plate and the driver, which can then be used to give tickets or fines.

"People should just stop for a school bus, whether they're in the one lane over, two lanes over, always err on the side of caution. We have children getting on and off buses. Children don't have obviously the minds developed to understand how other vehicles are not paying attention. So that's where it's incumbent upon vehicles."

Drivers captured by the stop-arm cameras on school buses will be investigated by law enforcement. District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick's office wants everyone to have a safe school year. 

"We have a tendency during the summer, we look and we see these signs. School's not in session, okay, wake up, school's back in session, nobody wants to have to make the call in the middle of the day to a parent that their child, their son or daughter, has been hurt because of somebody's careless actions." 

Fitzpatrick adds that drivers should also know that being ticketed for passing a school bus illegally is basically halfway to losing a license. The stop-arm camera legislation was signed into law last month and was originally introduced by Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli in 2013. Districts can apply for state education aid to purchase cameras for buses. 

Credit John Smith/WAER News
Fayetteville Manlius Superintendent Craig Tice joins law enforcement officials.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.