Schumer pushing for federal funding for school bus stop-arm cameras | WNYT.com
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Schumer pushing for federal funding for school bus stop-arm cameras

Emily Burkhard
Updated: October 30, 2019 06:19 PM
Created: October 30, 2019 05:32 PM

Traffic experts estimate 50,000 vehicles illegally pass school buses every day in New York. Many districts have started installing stop-arm cameras to catch those drivers.

The problem is larger districts that operate hundreds of buses don't have the money to do it all at once.

That's why Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pushing for federal guidelines that could help with funding.

A national mandate would pave the way for federal funding and would bring down costs because the cameras would be mass-produced. The problem is, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been looking at this issue for four years and still hasn't published their findings or made any recommendations.

Schumer wanted to publicly push them for answers on Wednesday. He said the NHTSA was supposed to publish their report in early 2018.

Schumer said he believes the organization is working on a lot right now and they've faced cuts, but he said he'd like to see a final report sometime in the next few months.

NewsChannel 13 spoke with Lori Caplan, the superintendent at the Watervliet City School District, about the issue on Wednesday.

Caplan said this summer they equipped the district's three buses with stop-arm cameras. She said it cost less than $2,000 to do that, but it was money that otherwise would have been spent on people and programs within the district.

Caplan said they chose to buy the cameras because they want to do whatever they can to ensure student safety. Though the Watervliet CSD was able to make it work this year, Caplan said it's not hard to understand why other districts with much larger fleets of buses have had to install the cameras in phases.

"As much as we all want to protect our children, you know at the end of the day the reality is it comes with a cost. So if they're going to mandate something, be it at the local level or the federal level, it needs to come with funding," Caplan said.

Schumer said it's still unclear how much federal funding we could see in the future. He said those numbers will depend on if the NHTSA does recommend a national mandate for stop arm cameras. If it does, the funding amount will be dependent upon which type of cameras are recommended.

NewsChannel 13 also asked whether or not the funding would cover the entire cost of installing the cameras or if school districts would still be expected to contribute. Again, Schumer said that depends on what the NHTSA decides.

"The majority of the cost would be federal. They would have to make a determination whether it's 100-percent or 90-percent or something like that," Schumer said. "If it's mandated it could be all federal if it's voluntary they might do a matching grant."

Once the NHTSA report is published, Schumer said he believes it would likely be at least another six months before any changes or funding took form.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this story.


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