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Dutchess County Encourages Bus Safety, Patience as New School Year Commences
Stop-arm cameras have been deployed on school buses; motorists passing a stopped school bus will be ticketed

Published: 9/2/2022

Poughkeepsie, NY ... With thousands of local students of all ages beginning the 2022-23 school year in the coming days, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Sheriff Kirk Imperati offer reminders for students, families and motorists – including school bus safety and compassion – for a safe and healthy school year. 

As hundreds of school buses return to local roadways to safely transport students to and from class, the motorists with whom they share the road are urged follow bus safety laws and use caution. Additionally, County Executive Molinaro encourages all Dutchess County residents to support local students, showing patience and compassion as they maneuver through this new school year.

County Executive Molinaro said, “I’ve always been proud of the altruistic spirit of Dutchess County, and never is that seen more than in our local schools – teachers, administrators and staff selflessly working together in the effort to educate our students. We can all take part in that education and nurturing of these young minds by instilling traits such as poise, empathy and humility through our actions – be it in the classroom, in our homes or throughout our community.”

Those lessons can begin on local roadways, even before students reach the classroom.

In New York State and Dutchess County, it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus which has its red lights flashing and its red “STOP” sign extended. Stopping for these buses is required when approaching from either direction – even on multiple lane roadways and divided highways, such as Route 9 and Route 44/55 – and in parking lots and on school grounds. 

More than half of the 13 local school districts in Dutchess County have collaborated with the County and safety technology innovator BusPatrol on a partnership addressing the issue of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses. The program provides every district in the County access to advanced safety technology, including stop-arm cameras to help enforce traffic laws and educate motorists on the dangers of passing school buses, at no cost to local taxpayers. 

When a local district opts into the program and the on-board cameras are installed, an initial, month-long warning period goes into effect; motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus equipped with the cameras will receive a warning in the mail. When that warning period expires, violators who pass a stopped school bus will receive a citation and fine in the mail; a first-time, stop-arm violation carries a fine of $250, subsequent violations within an 18-month period are subject to a $25 increase in penalty, up to a maximum of $300.

Seven local districts have opted in to the program and have employed these stop-arm cameras; the County remains in discussion with five districts; and the Town of Rhinebeck has declined to take part in the program. Since the initiative began in December 2021, cameras have been installed on more than 670 buses throughout Dutchess County, with 3,605 violations issued through July 31st. Routes 9 and 9G in Hyde Park, and Routes 44 and 55 in LaGrange remain the areas in the County where the most violations have occurred.

In addition to following the law and stopping for a stopped school bus, motorists are urged to pay close attention to the following reminders:

•    When the lights on the bus are yellow, it means the bus is about to stop. In this situation, drivers are advised to slow down and prepare to stop for the bus; do not try to get past the bus before it stops;
•    Be aware that in some cases children may be standing near the edge of the roadway waiting for the bus; drive slowly and use extra caution in these areas;
•    When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or riding a bicycle to school;
•    Be alert for children arriving late for the bus who may dart into the street without looking for traffic;
•    Always avoid cell phone use while driving;
•    Yield to students in crosswalks;
•    Obey the speed limit, particularly near schools; and 
•    Look for students walking when you are turning, backing up or driving at night for after-school activities.

Sheriff Imperati said, “The safety of local students is a top priority, and every motorist can play a role in ensure a safe ride on their way to and from school. We ask all motorists to be vigilant of students and the buses that transport them, and we encourage drivers to be mindful and courteous when they share the road with a school bus. The Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office has a strict zero-tolerance policy for those passing a stopped school bus, and those pulled over for it will be ticketed.”

The new school year may also bring feelings of anxiety or stress to some students, and the County’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health (DBCH) offers a wide range of mental health resources to every school district within the County, including its:

•    Stabilization Center – available 24/7 at 230 North Road, Poughkeepsie
•    HELPLINE (845-485-9700) – immediate phone or text link with mental health professionals and connection to services
•    Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) – caring mental health professionals who can go directly to a person in crisis to help prevent a situation from getting worse, see what the person needs, and connect them to services that can help them right away; and
•    Youth Mental Health First Aid training.

County Executive Molinaro said, “Dutchess County has assembled the best behavioral health tools of any community in the nation, and they have been proven to save lives. We implore parents, teachers and school districts to utilize the critical resources Dutchess County has made available to them to help all of our students have the safe school year.”

Additional information about the County’s mental health resources is available on the DBCH website.