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Padavan pushes bill to improve bus safety

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Both state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and...

By Adam Kramer

The two Queens Republican state senators joined forces with their compatriots in the state Senate to unveil legislation to improve school bus safety and protect school children from injury and abandonment.

Both state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) said last week 12 bills were developed and introduced after hearings — conducted by the School Bus Safety Task Force — were held across the state. Last year two school bus safety laws were passed, which prohibited children from standing on school buses and increased the fine levied on bus companies that do not comply with school bus driver qualifications.

“The stories of children being injured or abandoned while being transported to and from school seem to be on the rise,” said Padavan, a member of the task force. “These bills address the concerns that were raised last February, when we held a public meeting at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village a few months after a child was killed by a school bus in Elmhurst.”

According to statistics from the task force, there are about 2 million students statewide who use school buses to get to and from school. In New York City, 165,000 students ride school buses, while the remainder of the 1.1 million students use public transportation, said the Board of Education.

At last year’s meeting, Kevin Gill, executive director of Food Services and Transportation for the city Board of Education, said 110 Livingston St. uses more buses than the MTA, its system is bigger than the Chicago and Los Angeles school systems combined and its buses make more than 102,000 stops per day.

“Last year my own granddaughter, Sondra McGill, who was in kindergarten at the time, was left on a bus by a substitute who never checked to ensure that the bus was empty,” Maltese said. “No child should have to experience the terror of finding themselves alone on a bus and no parent should have to experience the simultaneous worry and panic when the bus does not drop off the child as usual.”

He said 50,000 school buses safely deliver more than 2 million children back and forth from home to school. The combination of the task force and the legislation should improve the safety of school children, Maltese said.

“We have a responsibility when transporting students to make sure they arrive safely,” Padavan said, “This legislative package will build on our strong record of school bus safety by making sure drivers are qualified and suitable, and by making sure that students are not abandoned at the completion of the route.”

The 12 bill safety package calls for:

•    A study on whether seat beat use should be mandatory

•    Require that all school bus drivers check the bus for students who might be stranded

•    A criminal background check for all school attendants

•    A mandated refresher course for all school bus drivers

•    School bus drivers to be subject to the same standards

•    Making it a crime for a person to get on a school bus with out the proper authority or for no reason

•    A school vehicle to carry the relevant personal information of disabled students they are transporting

•    Prohibiting a person who has had his or her license suspended for a conviction of DWI or driving under the influence of drugs from driving a school bus

•    Revoking the license of a school bus driver who tests positive on a random drug or alcohol test

•    Requiring a Breathalyzer test of school bus drivers involved in accidents where students are injured

•    Prohibiting drivers from dispatching students on a divided highway

•    Making the DOT, DMV and SED come up with a uniform definition of school bus thus, removing the inconsistencies in the current laws

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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