NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Law enforcement officers across New York state participated in a crackdown on motorists who illegally pass school buses when they’re picking up or dropping off students.

State troopers, sheriff’s deputies and local police officers took part Thursday in Operation Safe Stop.

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They followed behind school buses in marked and unmarked patrol vehicles on selected bus routes that have a history of illegal passing complaints. Motorists caught passing stopped school buses were issued tickets.

By some estimates, as many as 50,000 incidences of cars not stopping for school buses occur every day in New York State.

CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell went out on patrol with Town of Ramapo Police Sgt. Richard O’Donnell Thursday morning searching for violators.

“Unlike a speeding enforcement, you can’t sit still and wait for the violations to come to you,” O’Donnell said. “You have to go out and find them.”

It didn’t take long. On Route 32, one of the busiest roads in town, a minivan was seen pulling out and then crossing an intersection behind a stopped school bus, Burrell reported.

Kids like Jahan Vallejo, whose mom says they’ve had few close calls nearly getting hit by speeding cars, said they are grateful for the enforcement.

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“I was about to go on the bus and my bus driver put stop on it and it didn’t stop,” Vallejo said.

“Sometimes the kids won’t necessarily look before they cross the street,” said O’Donnell.

According to New York State law, when a bus has its red lights flashing, cars in both directions must stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.

First time offenders face a stiff fine of $250 to $400, five points on their license and possibly 30 days in jail.

Police departments get special funding each year to help offset the costs of the enforcement sting. For more on Operation Safe Stop, click here.

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