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PPCSD first in county to enforce bus safety program

PINE PLAINS — Taking the lead on protecting students from motorists illegally passing stopped school buses, the Pine Plains Central School District (PPCSD) recently became the first district in Dutchess County to implement the county’s new school bus safety program to protect students and educate motorists.

On Monday, Dec. 13, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro announced Dutchess County’s new partnership with the company BusPatrol to launch the school bus safety program. Through this new partnership, over 1,000 school buses across the county will have access to safety technology at no cost to local taxpayers, according to a press release issued by Molinaro’s office last week.

Such technology will include STOP-arm cameras to capture images of motorists passing school buses; GPS, routing and telemetry to identify the buses’ location at any given time; and Cloud-managed 360-degree safety cameras for the bus’s interior, windshield, rearview and sideload to provide a full view activity surrounding the bus.

All of the technology, installation and maintenance of the new hardware and software will be free to the school district and its taxpayers — funded entirely by violators over a five-year term.

For the PPCSD, this entails implementing the safety program across its entire fleet of 38 school buses. Effective Monday, Dec. 13, any driver who illegally passes a stopped Pine Plains school bus will receive a warning until Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

As of Thursday, Jan. 13, drivers who pass a stopped school bus will receive a citation and fine in the mail.

Regarding PPCSD’s efforts to enhance student safety from errant motorists, Superintendent of Schools Martin Handler said while the district has had the STOP-arm cameras installed on its buses for a year, the cameras haven’t been operational until recently, because all the legalities had to be sorted out.

“We’re very excited about it because these passed school buses create a tremendous hazard for students getting on and getting off the buses,” Handler said. “And if we can get people aware of the situation, we’re hoping it’s going to cut down on the number of people who are doing this.”

He remarked Pine Plains has been lobbying for this safety program for at least five years, and while it may be the first district, he heard Wappingers will be the next one to do so.

Handler said the PPCSD often gets complaints from its bus drivers. Not a week goes by when there aren’t at least a couple of instances when drivers pass school buses, he said.

“What’s exciting to me is that ultimately we will go a long way to solving this very important safety concern,” Handler said of the dangerous practice.

Chair of the Dutchess County Legislature Gregg Pulver (R-19), and a Pine Plains resident, said the county was instrumental in getting the program through, with Dr. Handler pushing them the entire way.

“He really was at the forefront of this,” Pulver said, “and we think it’s an amazing program. Anything to further the safety of students, I think, is very worthwhile, as is the program itself, and Pine Plains being the first is a trial basis for the entire county — hopefully it’ll spread like wildfire.”

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