7 On Your Side: Car owner mistakenly fined hundreds for illegally passing stopped school bus

Nina Pineda Image
Saturday, June 4, 2022
Man mistakenly fined hundreds for illegally passing stopped school bus
A Westchester County man was getting nowhere disputing a fine for passing a stopped school bus, when it was even him. Then he got 7 On Your Side.

It has been a win-win for Suffolk County.

Equipping 5,000 school buses with cameras to catch drivers illegally passing stopped school buses while picking up and dropping off kids.

In little more than a year it has raised awareness and millions of dollars, but what if you're caught in the act but it wasn't you breaking the law?

A Westchester County man said he was mistakenly fined and couldn't get it fixed until he reached out to Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side.

"How does it make you feel that you're being accused of this?" Pineda asked.

"Well, I was very surprised," Tom Campanelli said. "It wasn't my car."

Campanelli received a $250 fine after his white Jeep Grand Cherokee was apparently captured by one of the cameras passing a stopped school bus on Ocean Parkway in Farmingville last March.

But he said he and his Jeep were actually 66 miles away at work in Katonah at the time, no where near Suffolk County.

"I don't think it's right to pay $250 for something I didn't do," Camanelli said.

In the video, the white Jeep in question is far away, on the other side of the highway, and separated by six lanes of traffic.

Yet New York State Traffic Law states it doesn't matter what side or lane you're in, you still can't pass a school bus with its flashing red signals up and stop sign out on a street or highway.

"I don't know the laws. I just know it's not my vehicle," Campanelli said.

The offending Jeep seen on the video and Tom's Grand Cherokee not only look different, but so do their license plates.

"It's very blurry. and it doesn't have some of the same characters that my plate has," Campanelli said.

So, Campanelli disputed the fine and asked for a court date and made sure to get proof of receipt when he sent his request.

"They denied the court date. They said they hadn't received it on time," Campanelli said.

They even levied a late fee and a threat.

"They could boot my car and tow my car and send me to collections," Campanelli said.

So, 7 On Your Side went to Suffolk County to ask about the mix-up.

It said it's vendor, Bus Patrol, equipped 5,000 school busses with cameras at no cost to the county or school districts.

The program has been profitable taking in about $12 million dollars last year.

The county's cut: $6.6 million dollars that's for 85,000 tickets issued.

Campanelli's was one of about 6,000 disputed, but after we contacted the county and its vendor, his dispute was finally heard.

"They reviewed the video saw it wasn't me and voided the whole thing out," Campanelli said.

Within 48 hours Suffolk County apologized to him and sent him a confirmation.

"Without 7 On Your Side I would not have gotten this resolved. I'd recommend you to anyone. Thank you, 7 On Your Side," Campanelli said.



Do you have an issue with a company that you haven't been able to resolve? If so, 7 On Your Side wants to help you!

Email 7OnYourSideNina@abc.com, or contact Nina on her Facebook page or tweet her at Twitter @7OnYourSideNY! You can also call the 7 On Your Side Hotline at 917-260-7697 or fill out the form below.