New York State Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., a Republican from Merrick, said more needs to be done to focus attention on drivers who pass stopped school buses while they are loading or unloading children.

According to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee 2009 report, 69 students were injured between 2002 and 2004 by motorists illegally passing buses, killing one student. The office estimates that nearly 50,000 vehicles illegally pass stopped school buses in New York state alone and they want something done about.

So do parents and the school children themselves. As well as police and schools; teachers and administrators.

Drivers who currently pass a school bus with its red flashing lights on receive a $400 fine. If signed into law, the new legislation would also increase fines for repeat offenders. Drivers who are convicted of a second offense within three years would receive a maximum fine of $1,150, up from $750. Those who commit the offense three or more times within three years would face a maximum fine of $1,500, up from the current $1,000 maximum. The legislation would also ensure that drivers who cause injuries or fatalities by illegally passing stopped school buses would face criminal penalties. If someone were injured as a direct result of a driver passing a school bus, the defendant would face charges of aggravated vehicular assault. Additionally, drivers who kill someone would face charges of criminally negligent homicide.

Fuschillo said he was pleased to sponsor and support the new legislation and called it a step in the right direction to remind motorists that school buses carry precious cargo. Those New York drivers who cannot remember that, he said, should be sent a serious message attached to a stiff penalty. And the legislation does just that.

If you are driving in New York, or anywhere, be advised that when a school bus stops, so should you. To ignore this simple rule is to not only endanger your license, but also the life of an innocent child.