Bipartisan legislation to address motorists who illegally pass school buses while loading or unloading students took a crucial step forward toward passage.
The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) reported Friday that committees in both the House and Senate approved the inclusion of the STOP for School Buses Act in their respective final versions of the $305.5 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill. The bill was reintroduced in March by Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana and Democrat Rep. Julia Brownley of California, after an initial attempt last year failed to be included in last summer’s infrastructure bill.
The STOP Act would create a comprehensive federal program for preventing motorists from illegally passing school buses. The U.S. Department of Transportation would be required to review illegal passing laws, penalties and levels of enforcement in all 50 states as well as various technologies and driver education materials. It would then make recommendations on best practices and the most effective approaches.
The DOT would also implement a public safety messaging campaign.
NSTA “praised” the advancement of the legislation, noting it’s a top-level priority for the association during the current session. NSTA noted that an estimated 15 million illegal school bus passing incidents occur during a normal 180-day school year, according to a one-day survey of participating school districts by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.
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“Statistically, it is notable that children are in more danger outside of a school bus than they are riding in a yellow bus, and the STOP Act seeks to determine the root causes of why distracted driving around school buses has become such an epidemic,” commented NSTA President John Benish.
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee reported on the Surface Transportation Investment Act on Thursday and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved its Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America Act) last week.
The reauthorization bill moves forward for a full vote in the Senate.