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School bus speeders help fund safety initiatives under new CT law

State Senator Herron Gaston speaks at Dunbar Elementary School on 5/28/2024 alongside other state and local officials. Gaston spoke of a new state law allowing municipalities to collect proceeds from fines issued to drivers illegally passing school buses. Bridgeport stated earlier this year nearly 10,000 motorists illegally passed Bridgeport school buses during the academic year.
Eddy Martinez
/
Connecticut Public
State Senator Herron Gaston speaks at Dunbar Elementary School on 5/28/2024 alongside other state and local officials. Gaston spoke of a new state law allowing municipalities to collect proceeds from fines issued to drivers illegally passing school buses. Bridgeport stated earlier this year nearly 10,000 motorists illegally passed Bridgeport school buses during the academic year.

Drivers in Bridgeport illegally passed stopped school buses nearly 10,000 times during the first six months of the school year. And Mayor Joe Ganim says the city will be able to make money from it, while trying to crack down on offending drivers.

“It certainly helps the revenue aspect of municipalities and, able to allocate the resources on so many fronts,” Ganim said.

Ganim referred to a recently passed state law, introduced by the Public Safety and Security Committee, allowing municipalities to collect the proceeds from ticketing drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.

State Sen. Herron Gaston, who pushed for the law, says it also coincides with efforts by Bridgeport police to crack down on drivers.

Gaston said the new state law allowing cities like Bridgeport to collect 100% of all proceeds on related fines could add a lot of money to the city’s safety initiatives.

“We believe that because of the number of people going across the school buses, that that would actually generate much more revenue,” Gaston said.

Drivers are mandated to stop and wait while a school bus stop sign is raised as it picks up or drops off students. Bridgeport school buses have cameras and sensors that record cars illegally passing a bus. So far, no child has been injured or killed as a result of a car illegally passing a school bus, according to Gaston.

But Ganim said the risk is too great not to take action.

“We don't need to wait for a child to be hit by a passing car,” Ganim said.

Bridgeport police are already cracking down on drivers with officers tasked with stopping and ticketing drivers caught in the act, according to Gaston and Ganim.

The state allows municipalities to fine offending motorists under a temporary policy. Fines start at $250, similar to fines in New York. If a police officer stops a car the fine is $450, Gaston said.

But while school bus cameras do record video and catch license plate information, some of those motorists do drive with fake license plates, making enforcement tricky without the presence of a police officer.

Gaston said the city is still working that out.

“We haven't ironed out all the details with that because it's just like a car that may be driving down the road now, without a description of a license plate … you turn it in and give the best description as possible to the police department, hope that they're able to track that vehicle down,” he said.

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