Opinion | Have you ever seen a school bus drop off a child who’s then made to cross a four-lane highway with cars whizzing by at 50 or 60 mph. I certainly haven’t. But if it were to happen, this highly dangerous practice is perfectly legal for school districts in New York State. The motorists are to be trusted to stop, is the assumption here.
Have you ever seen a school bus flash its yellow caution lights while preparing to stop, without dropping off children? I have. All the time, whether it’s at a railroad crossing or just to pull over. The yellow lights only indicate the bus is about to stop, but not necessarily drop off kids.
Have you ever gotten a $250 Suffolk County camera ticket for passing a bus just as the arm of the bus’s stop sign was protruding, and you’re moving with traffic along a four-lane highway with no other cars slowing down around you? I have. Check out the video below. Mine is the black SUV, the last pictured.
What if this bus was simply pulling over, yellow lights flashing?
Either way, would you think it’s a good idea to stop on Indian Head Road (consider the video evidence) and risk getting rear-ended with a 7- and 9-year-old in the backseat, as was the case with me?
Given a similar situation, especially with a car close behind me, I would do it again.
I am not a scofflaw. If I lived a thousand lifetimes I would never hit a kid coming off a bus. And no cop would have ever ticketed me for this. I am the definition of a safe driver, with only one speeding ticket to my name dating back to 2005, when I was 24 and going 81 mph in the left lane of the LIE in Manorville. I was fine with that ticket. Utilized cruise control on the open road ever since.
I am not fine with this ticket.
But I paid it, on the advice of friends. You can’t fight Suffolk County, they said. I agreed. (Anyone who’s been to Suffolk County traffic court knows it’s the police officer’s word against yours, and your word doesn’t count. Why would this be any different?)
But apparently one man did fight city hall in Suffolk County.
According to this report in Newsday, Suffolk resident and lawyer Alfred Croce, III took his $250 ticket to The Appellate Term of the Supreme Court for the 9th and 10th judicial districts. And won.
Read this excerpt from the Newsday article:
Court papers show Croce claimed the videos used as evidence failed to prove the vehicle was a bus and do not show it was stopped to discharge or pick up passengers. He said the video did not capture the vehicle’s bus markings, rear signage or warning lights, and did not contain any recordings of anyone getting on or off the bus, according to court documents.
Croce, in court filings stated, “the People bear the burden to provide legally valid and sufficient evidence to prove each element” of the law.
Suffolk was the first county in the state to roll out the program in 2021 with an outside vendor that near-splits all revenues, according to Newsday. The program raised $25 million last year.
Nassau County did not follow suit.
But the towns there have. And now a West Hempstead resident Sergey Kadinsky is leading a class-action lawsuit against Hempstead under similar grounds that Croce won upon in Suffolk, according to Newsday.
I showed my camera ticket video to a longtime county employee and someone I consider an expert for multitude of reasons, who agreed to give his feedback anonymously.
He said the problem is this: DMV requires buses to flash their amber lights at least 300 feet before fully stopping and then extending the stop sign arm.
But there’s no way of proving a driver actually does this to regulation.
Unlike with a traffic light.
“Yellow traffic lights are timed,” he said. “At 55 miles an hour, an actual traffic light would have a 5.5. second yellow. When the county implemented the red light program they looked at the yellow light timing to make sure they were within guidelines. That way it was harder to challenge.”
So, in short, throwing out a stop sign on a busy road and compelling anyone on the other side of the highway to stop short out of fear of a hefty fine — instead of using common sense, depending on the bus driver’s actions — “is incredibly dangerous,” he said.
It’s the same reason an actual police officer would never ticket a motorist in this situation.
Despite what any politician tells you or a reporter, this is a cash grab targeting law-abiding citizens. We all know it. Even our elected leaders know it.
This fall, during what became a successful campaign for county executive, Ed Romaine (in an interview) scoffed at the notion that any of these camera ticket programs have to do with safety.
The current Suffolk County administration, he told me, “wants to turn you by the ankles, and shake you upside down.” Seemingly, every time you leave the house.
No wonder people are moving from this state in droves. It could cost you $250 to drive your kids to or from school. Enough is enough.
Oppressive camera ticket programs haven’t seemed to cost lawmakers at the ballot boxes, so more get piled on. The fight needs to be taken to the courts. Keep it up, Sergey Kadinsky.