School bus

On a typical spring day last year, dozens of law enforcement agencies around New York state conducted an enforcement campaign called Operation Safe Stop.

The goal was to raise awareness about the state's law that forbids passing school buses stopped to pick up or drop off children. The purpose of the law is obvious — to protect students from getting hurt. And the penalties for violations are not insignificant.

But apparently the motivation of being cautious while driving near children or avoiding a $250 to $400 fine and possible jail time isn't enough for many drivers.

On that enforcement day last year, with just a portion of bus stops being monitored, 1,037 tickets were issued for passing stopped school buses.

Seeing that result motivated Gov. Andrew Cuomo to push for increased penalties for school bus passing. The specific proposal will come out later this month.

"Extrapolated for 180 days of school, someone passed a stopped school bus 180,000 times a year, endangering the safety of school children," the governor's office wrote in its 2018 State of the State book.

And that figure might be conservative, which is why we support the governor's intention and urge our state legislators to get behind the effort.

But bigger fines alone won't fix the problem. In addition to stiffer penal consequences, increased driver education efforts are also needed. If the state can spend millions of dollars touting its tourism and economic development efforts, surely some funds for getting the attention of reckless drivers can be found.

The Citizen Editorial Board includes publisher Rob Forcey, managing editor Mike Dowd and executive editor Jeremy Boyer.

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