Donald Mair has fought to provide safe bus stops for students ever since a car struck his 12-year-old daughter Gabby shortly after being dropped off by her school bus five years ago. She died the next day.
It’s been a struggle since, but Mair has finally seen his efforts enact serious change with the passage of Gabby’s Law by Florida lawmakerson April 29. “This is a long time coming,” said Mair.
Mair took up the fight in honor of his daughter to prevent other families from having to suffer through his tragedy. However, Mair still feels that the new law does not go far enough to ensure the safety of all children.
Gabby’s Law, or House Bill 41, passed the Florida legislature without opposition, authorizing reasonable changes to school paths, and requiring school boards to work with cities and counties to identify risky walking conditions.
The bill also updated the definition of what is hazardous and raises the requirement to provide students better options of traveling to school.
But there is more to do, according to Mair. Currently, Florida law requires cars to stop in both directions when a school bus has its stop arm out. Yet, a 2014 state study showed that drivers rarely, if at all, yielded for stopped buses either picking up or dropping off students. The report also found that a number of cars passed school buses on the right even with stop signals and children present.
“We need more signage at bus stops, harsher penalties for drivers who illegally pass buses and stop-arm cameras to catch them,” said Mair. A second bill, HB487, was meant to address these concerns; however, it stalled in committee.
The measure would have increased punishment for drivers who fail to stop for a school bus with a stop signal, and defined this act as reckless driving, making it a third-degree felony if resulting in serious bodily injury.
HB487 failed to garner the support to be brought to vote. This lack of action disappointed Mair, who believed that state representatives placed politics over “the safety of children.”
Mair recounted the call from his daughter’s phone that informed him that Gabby was in critical condition. “I don’t know who was on the other end, but they were crying,” said Mair. “They told me that my daughter had been hit by a car and she was on the way to the hospital.”
The following day, doctors declared that Gabby was brain dead. She later succumbed to her injuries. Mair said that Gabby’s death drives him to not give up the fight.
Mair reported that he plans to challenge Rep. David Santiago in 2016 for the District 27 seat for failing to advance HB487. “I just want to the chance to go after the lawbreakers,” said Mair.
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