New York Gov. Cuomo Expands Crimes That Disqualify People From Becoming School Bus Drivers


Posted on 20th August 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is continuing his crusade for bus safety.

Last week Cuomo signed a law to expand the list of convictions that disqualify people from either permanently or temporarily operating a school bus. That move comes in the wake of the governor last month suspending the licenses of eight poorly performing tour bus operators.

The law adds to the list of convictions that would either permanently disqualify an applicant from being a bus driver or disqualify the candidate for five years.

Although the main aim of the new law is to protect children from sexual predators, it also seeks to bar potential drivers who have killed people in accidents from ever getting behind the wheel of school bus.

Before, people would be prohibited from driving a school bus for five years if they had been convicted of  vehicular manslaughter in the first degree; aggravated vehicular homicide; and promoting prostitution in the first, second or third degree. The new law changes that temporary five-year prohibition to a permanent ban for those guilty of these crimes.

In addition, forcible touching and criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance will be added to the list of crimes that will result in a five-year prohibition.

“This law will protect our children by making sure those convicted of sexual offenses and other serious crimes are disqualified from becoming school bus drivers,” Cuomo said in a press release. “Keeping our children safe must always be a top priority and by signing this legislation we are putting in place additional precautions that will help protect our students. I thank Sen. Bonacic and Assemblyman Pretlow for their work on this important legislation.”

Under the new law, crimes for which a conviction would ban a person from becoming a school bus driver include:

* Aggravated manslaughter in the first or second degree.
* Aggravated sexual abuse in the second, third, and fourth degree.
* Sexual abuse in the first degree.
* Course of sexual conduct against a child in the first or second degree.
* Facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance.
* Predatory sexual assault.
* Sex trafficking.
* Disseminating indecent materials to minors in the first degree.
* Use of a child in a sexual performance.
* Promoting or possessing a sexual performance by a child.
*Aggravated assault upon a child less than 11 years old.
* Luring a child.
* Persistent sexual abuse.
* Aggravated criminally negligent homicide.
* Criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds. 

The law will take effect in 180 days.

“This legislation is an important step in better protecting children,” Sen. John Bonacic said in a prepared statement. “By making sure those who are convicted of a variety of sex crimes, including crimes against children, are unable to pass the required background check and become school bus drivers, we will make New York safer for all children. I appreciate Gov. Cuomo’s signing this legislation into law. I also want to single out and applaud the Onteora School District’s Transportation Director, David Moraca, for bringing the need for this legislation to my attention.”

In the govnernor’s press release, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow stated, “I commend Gov. Cuomo for signing into law this common sense legislation that provides a much needed update to our penal code. School bus drivers spend many hours with our children, and we must make sure these drivers have not been convicted of serious crimes that would jeopardize the safety of students.”


New York Addresses This Year’s Dramatic Rise In Tour Bus Accidents


Posted on 14th August 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.,  made a great point a few weeks ago when he suggested that there should be a national solution to stem the rash of tour bus accidents in 2011. He pointed out that there have already been more bus crashes this year so far than there were all of last year.

Several tour bus accidents made headlines just this weekend and the end of last week. Early Saturday morning in Pennsylvania, 14 people were injured and had to be hospitalized when a Greyhound bus en route to St. Louis overturned on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Just days before that, on Thursday, Nickelodeon “iCarly” star Miranda Cosgrove broke her ankle when her tour bus got into an accident on Interstate 70 in Illinois. The 18-year-old had been on her way from a show in Ohio to Kansas, where she’d been scheduled to perform Friday. Cosgrove had to cancel her summer tour because of her injuries.

But those accidents pale when compared to the March 12 tour bus crash in the Bronx that killed 15 passengers. That bus was transporting people back from a Connecticut casino to Manhattan’s Chinatown.  

Many of these accidents happened very early in the morning, just before or right about dawn. In several cases, police suspect that drivers fell asleep behind the wheel. But why has this issue surfaced so often this year? 

With the recession taking its toll, perhaps bus companies have laid off drivers, meaning those who are left have to work longer shifts. Or perhaps drivers, financially pinched, are volunteering to do more runs even if they are tired, to pay family bills. 

In New York State at least, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to address the problem. His administration late last month, via the state Department of Transportation (DOT),  launched a crackdown on charter bus companies, suspending the operating licenses of eight “poor performing” tour bus operators.

“The eight companies are being directed to ceaseoperations under their New York licenses within five business days,” Cuomo’s administration said in a press release. “All of the companies have failed three or more roadside inspections of buses or drivers in the last six months of intensified state enforcement or failed their scheduled semi-annual bus inspections or received a federal out-of-service order.”

In a statement Cuomo said, “The frequent, and at times flagrant, violations of state and federal safety regulations by charter bus companies has gone on for too long and put too many lives at risk.”

The Administration said that its action would pull some 100 buses off New York state roads pending a full DOT review of the companies’ vehicle fleets, drivers’ records, and company finances before the suspensions can be lifted.

The reviews will take place at the expense of the suspended companies, according to the press release. Failure to achieve full compliance will result in the permanent revocation of the companies’ right to operate in New York.

Some of the failing operators have separate interstate operating licenses issued by the federal government.

“DOT is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation to assure that sub-standard operators that lose their New York licenses cannot continue to operate in New York under a federal license,” the press release said.

DOT is also adding 20 new inspectors to step up enforcement of bus industry regulations and carrier compliance. The additional staff will perform about 11,000 safety performance inspections of high-risk operators and 2,000 safety audits of poor performing motor carriers annually, according to the Cuomo officials.

These enforcement activities are expected to generate $2 million in civil penalties annually.

In the past four months, DOT has performed 3,000 roadside bus inspections with 542 drivers and/or vehicles being placed out-of-service. This compares with 615 buses inspected at roadside in all of 2010 — a nearly a 400 percent increase.

DOT also conducts more than 160,000 routine bus-safety inspections annually, and works with the State Police to conduct more than 120,000 surprise roadside inspections of buses and trucks annually.

These carriers were suspended: Best Trails and Travel Corp.;  Party Ride;  A & W Tours Inc.; Touch of Class & Coach Inc.;  Silver Star Limo Co.;  Zoladz Limousine Service;  Long Island Limousine Service Corp.; and Big Apple Bus Charter Inc.

At least New York is making an effort to address the problem head-on. It would be nice if other states did the same.

29 Hurt In Greyhound Bus Accident


Posted on 13th August 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Once again, another tour bus accident. This time on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Rescue crews are working to free a person trapped when a Greyhound bus overturned on the interstate, injuring 29 people. The westbound bus flipped on its side at about 6 a.m. Saturday, one mile east of the Lebanon-Lancaster exit.

Bus Driver Loses Leg In Temecula Crash


Posted on 10th August 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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A chain-reaction collision occurred at 7:50 am on August 10, 2011 on Interstate 15 in Temecula, California. A RTA bus driver lost a leg at the knee and all five of his passengers were taken to the hospital. The entire front end of the bus was destroyed. Apparently the bus driver didn’t notice that traffic had stopped. He collided with a box van which was then pushed into a small SUV that flipped over. Two other SUVs were also rear ended. According to the preliminary investigation, the bus triggered the accident.