Proposed laws would strength school bus safety

Posted at: 07/09/2013 10:23 PM
Updated at: 07/10/2013 2:52 PM
By: Lynette Adams

How safe are your children when they ride the bus to and from school? News10NBC is looking at two proposals in the state senate that could help protect your kids. This comes on the heels of the arrest of a local school bus driver for drunk driving.     
On Monday, a Geneseo bus driver was arrested and charged with DWI.  Police say Manon Coyne's blood alcohol content was 0.24%, that's six times the legal limit for school bus drivers. Coyne was arrested after police say she had just dropped off five students at summer school. The Geneseo School District says Coyne has been employed by the district since 2011.
Back in May, News10NBC told you about a bill in the Senate requiring districts to use ignition interlock devices on buses. There's also a bill that would expand random drug and alcohol testing for school bus drivers and create tougher penalties for bus drivers convicted of driving drunk.
News10NBC spoke with Fairport democrat state senator Ted O'Brien. We also caught up with Michael Ranzenhofer, a republican senator from Williamsville. He represents portions of Riga and Chili. We asked both of them about the incident in Geneseo and if it's an example of why the state needs stricter rules for bus drivers.

Senator Ted O'Brien said, “It's clearly a problem that has to be addressed. We've got to make sure children are safe. That kind of behavior is completely unacceptable. And one of the things I favor is increasing penalties for people convicted of driving while intoxicated in connection with driving a school bus. I think we should look at interlock devices, but I think we should also look at other alternatives as well, like increasing the random testing of bus drivers and more supervision at the time that the buses leave the central location in the morning.”

Both O'Brien and Ranzenhofer say less expensive alternatives may be more effective.

Senator Michael Ranzenhofer said, “I know personally that the cost of monitoring, that would be about $100 per school bus. So this is a project that would cost tens of thousands of dollars for the state. So I'm not convinced at this time. I certainly want to keep our children safe, but I don't know if that's the answer to this particular problem.”

News10NBC's Lynette Adams asked, “What can parents look forward to in this new legislative session? Parents who are putting their children on school buses everyday. What can they expect from their elected officials coming up in the fall?”

Ranzenhofer said, “Well, as I said, one of the things I said we did this year was increase the penalties for people texting and driving. I think that gives them some assurance. We're always on the lookout, always studying drunken driving and making those penalties more severe, not just for bus drivers, but for anybody who gets behind the wheel.”

Senator George Maziarz from Niagara Falls proposed the ignition interlock bill in the wake of four school bus crashes on Long Island alone. All of them involved drinking and driving. He disagrees with the cost of installing these devices, saying it is exaggerated. He thinks these devices would save lives.

The Geneseo School District says all employees are subjected to background checks including a fingerprint review. Drivers are tested for drug use and must answer questions about their past drug and alcohol use. Both lawmakers say this is an area that could be strengthened.