As school districts across the state prepared to participate Wednesday in an annual, one-day count of motorists who break the state's school bus passing law, legislation is before House members to raise the minimum fine amount for violators.
Current verbiage of Section 545.066(c) of the Texas Transportation Code sets the minimum fine for misdemeanor illegal passing at $200 and no more than $1,000, unless the violation results in serious injury or if the motorist has previously been convicted of a similar violation. Introduced by Rep. Pat Fallon, House Bill 1174 would increase the minimum fine amount to $500 and the maximum to $1,250. Additionally, subsequent convictions within five years of the first would increase the minimum to $1,000 and the maximum to $2,000.
If passed, the new provisions would go into effect Sept. 1. Rebecca Rocha, state director of student transportation at the Texas Department of Safety, told members of the Texas Association for Pupil Transportation she will testify on the bill before the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. She added that legislators want to see data on illegal passings compiled from the state 2011 School Bus Illegal Passing Survey. She encouraged all school districts to participate in the one-day count, which will be forwarded to NASDPTS to complete its third annual National Stop Arm Violation Count.
In January, Rocha announced this year's survey date for Texas and sent a link to download driver reporting forms and an illegal-passing results spreadsheet. Results are to be reported no later than May 31.