Cleveland councilmembers are expected to vote in the new year on an emergency ordinance introduced this week that seeks to increase fines levied on motorists convicted of violating laws on stopping for school buses engaged in the loading and unloading of student passengers.
The school bus provision is one of seven misdemeanors included in Ordinance No. 1659-12 that would amend existing traffic code. It was introduced by Council Member Kevin Conwell (pictured at left) of Ward 9, one of 19 in the Cleveland area, and chair of the Public Safety committee.
He told School Transportation News the ordinance was in response to a local woman recently convicted of passing a stopped school bus on the right-side sidewalk. Shena Hardin of Cleveland was sentenced to a $250 fine and to wear an "idiot" sign around her neck as she served time standing in front of the pre-school where teh incident took place. Conwell said that when the judge was asked why jail time was not also handed down, the response was because the infraction was a simple misdemeanor.
First-time convictions would be classified as minor misdemeanors with a penalty of a $150 fine. But subsequent convictions could include jail time and increased fines at a judge's discretion.
A second conviction within one year of the first, and if it is proven the motorist was traveling 10 mph or more above the posted speed limit, would result in a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. A third conviction within a year would increase to a third-degree misdemeanor and up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. A fourth conviction would be a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine, while a fifth within a year would result in a first-degree misdemeanor charge and up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Judges could also suspended drivers licenses, including CDLs, for up to three years or revoke the priviledge outright. License suspensions could also result when a motorist is convicted of speeding past a school building or grounds.
The ordinance was referred to at committees at this report. A city council spokesman told School Transportation News that a final vote could come by late January or early February prior to a winter recess.
Other infractions governed by the new ordinance would include street racing, willfully fleeing a police officer, the placing of dangerous material on streets and bicycle safety violations.