Florida’s School Bus Safety bill, which was passed by the House and Senate earlier this year, was signed by Gov. Rick Scott. It goes into effect July 1.
HB 1239, titled School Bus Safety, imposes enhanced penalties on drivers who do not stop for a school bus and cause serious bodily harm or death to a person. It creates the Cameron Mayhew Act, named after a 16-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a car while crossing the road to board his bus on June 1, 2016. The driver of the car received a six-month license suspension and a $1,000 fine.
Starting July 1, drivers who pass a stopped school bus with its warning signals on and cause “serious bodily harm or death” to another person will be fined $1,500 and have their license suspended for one year. If a driver passes a stopped school bus but does not harm or kill someone, they will have four points added to their license; if they severely injure or kill someone, that will be raised to six points.
Convicted motorists will also have to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma care center or hospital that routinely receives victims of automobile accidents, and they must attend a victim impact panel or a driver safety course specifically “relating to the rights of vulnerable road users relative to vehicles on the roadway.”
The penalties introduced in this bill would be in addition to any civil or criminal penalties for persons who illegally pass a school bus.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, over 2,400 people were ticketed in 2016 for ignoring a school bus’ red lights or stop arm. The Government Accountability Committee notes that although current Florida law imposes fines ranging from $100 to $363 for passing a stopped school bus, guidelines for enhanced penalties for injuring or killing someone while doing so did not exist before the bill was introduced.