Whether as a voluntary precaution or a requirement of a drunk driving conviction, ignition interlock devices (IID) are commonly installed in the cars of everyday drivers to reduce drunk driving and increase safety on public roads and highways. But after a series of school bus accidents involving impaired bus drivers – at least four in the past seven months – New York legislators are taking public safety one step further with a new bill proposal that would require all school buses to be equipped with an ignition interlock.
During last week’s public hearing on the issue of impaired bus drivers and the proposed bill, Melissa Escudero, whose son was one of five young children on a school bus that ran into a house at the hands of a drunk bus driver in Long Island last October, and many other parents argued in support of the bill.
However, the state’s School Bus Contractors Association estimates that equipping every school bus in the state with an IID would add $100 million per year to transportation funds, a cost that bus company operators and some school officials find too expensive. Arguing that IIDs would also be time consuming and distracting, the School Bus Contractors Association favors better observation of bus drivers by schools and bus companies, including more extensive background checks and an increase in random drug and alcohol tests. Currently, bus drivers operating buses with 14 or fewer children are not required by law to participate in random testing.
While the State School Boards Association is not against the use of interlocks on school buses, the group would prefer that IID installation remain discretionary to each school district.
If passed, the proposed legislation would go into effect in 2015 and require bus drivers to take a breathalyzer test every day before driving kids to and from school.