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Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro announced today Vincent Valentino, of the Pawling Central School District, has been named the winner of the 17th annual Dutchess County School Bus Driver of the Year Award, recognizing his exemplary service and safety record. The award is part of the Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board’s efforts to promote school bus safety, given in conjunction with the launch of the annual Operation Safe Stop Project supported by the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.
Mr. Valentino, who has been employed by the Pawling Central School District for seven years and has been an accident-free bus driver for more than 37 years, was presented this morning with a commemorative plaque and honored as the School Bus Driver of the Year at the Operation Safe Stop kickoff press conference at the Pawling Central School District offices.
County Executive Molinaro said, “I commend Mr. Valentino for his dedication to the students he safely transports each day and the community that relies on his faithful service. Every day, parents entrust their children to Mr. Valentino and countless school bus drivers like him who are committed to ensuring the students in their charge arrive at school, ready to learn, and make a safe return in the afternoon. I congratulate Mr. Valentino on his exemplary driving record, and our community thanks him for his devotion to our children.”
The Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board’s School Bus Driver of the Year award seeks to promote school bus safety through education and enforcement efforts. The annual award was initiated in 2002 to increase public awareness regarding school bus safety issues and to recognize school bus drivers who get children to and from school safely on a daily basis. School bus drivers are an integral part of the safe transportation of school children. Crashes and related injuries are prevented by these highly trained professionals’ experience, skill and daily performance.
Dutchess County Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson said, “There is no greater duty we share than the safety of our children. School bus drivers, their supervisors, law enforcement officials and local leaders take that obligation seriously. Dutchess County residents can be proud of the collaboration of partners assembled to protect their children on their way to and from school.”
Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board Administrator William C. Johnson said, “Mr. Valentino is a model driver who understands and embraces what it is to be a school bus driver – not just what it takes to drive a school bus. He has achieved an exceptional safety record and Mr. Valentino’s contributions to the Pawling district go way beyond his ability and passion to safely transport children. He is respected by supervisory staff, his peers, as well as the students and parents he has touched over the years.”
Operation Safe Stop Education Enforcement Day will be Thursday, April 26th, when state, county and local law enforcement agencies will shadow school buses to identify and ticket drivers who do not obey the flashing red lights on a stopped school bus. Law enforcement throughout Dutchess County will target enforcement efforts at what school transportation officials have identified as “hot spots,” where most violations typically occur.
New York State Vehicle and Traffic law requires drivers to stop from either direction, even on a divided highway, any time a school bus’s red lights are flashing. Passing a school bus with red lights is not only dangerous, but it is illegal and punishable with fines ranging from $250 to $1,000; a motorist may also be assessed five points on his driver’s license, and penalties can include possible imprisonment (up to 30 days for first offense and 180 days for a subsequent conviction).
Dutchess County Legislator John Thomes said, “Throughout Dutchess County each day, countless school bus drivers dutifully safeguard our children while transporting them to and from class. Today, we proudly honor the men and women whose dedication to their service keeps our young students out of harm’s way on the roads. This occasion also serves as a reminder to all motorists to stop when the red lights on a school bus are flashing. Protecting our children is our shared responsibility, and your actions on the road can save a child’s life.”
The Dutchess County School Bus Driver of the Year Award represents a collaborative partnership with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the Mid-Hudson Transportation Supervisor’s Association the Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board, and the Culinary Institute of America has again graciously donated a gift certificate to the award winner.
The Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board is a coalition of law enforcement, education, health and service agencies, and individuals appointed by the County Executive who are committed to ensuring our streets, sidewalks, and residents remain safe.