Two recently introduced bills in Michigan and a proposed bill in Ohio call for harsher penalties for drivers who pass a stopped school bus.
In the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) most recent survey of a one-day count of illegal passers that was released earlier this summer, the results showed that at least 17 million stop-arm violations occur each school year across the U.S. The number is likely much larger, as only about a quarter of all school bus drivers in 39 states participated in the voluntary survey.
In a statement released on July 24, NASDPTS said 27 percent of the nation’s school bus drivers counted a total of 95,319 violators.
Now, two states are introducing harsher penalties for motorists who illegally pass a school bus when it is stopped with red lights flashing and stop-arm extended, in the hope of reducing the number of illegal passers.
Senate Bill 472 is sponsored by Michigan state Sen. Curtis Hertel and was introduced on Aug. 29. It was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. House Bill 4867 was introduced the same day in Ohio by Rep. Kevin Hertel.
The bills specify that each secretary of state can suspend a drivers license for up to a year if a motorist is found in violation of the laws—and based on the number of driving violations the driver has accumulated. The proposed bills also call for increased fines for motorists who pass a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing.
The bills also require that motorists who pass a school bus will be fined $250 for a first offense. Any subsequent offenses could cost Michigan drivers between $500 and $1,000.
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Meanwhile, in Ohio, Mayor James Graven reportedly announced that he plans on proposing similar legislation later this month to the Olmsted City Council.
In a video posted on Facebook, Jim Lloyd, superintendent for Olmsted Falls School District, he said the new penalty would increase the fine from $500 to $1,000 if you pass a school bus with its stop-arm extended.
Lloyd said that drivers pass school buses for several reasons, but distractions seem to play a major role, as well as being in a hurry and being ignorant of the laws. In his district, Lloyd said he sees this happen on neighborhood roads.
Lloyd added that his district is considering purchasing external school bus cameras, in order to capture the offending motorists on video. But the additional cost is always a deterrent, he complained.
In Ohio, it is up to the individual school districts or municipalities to decide if they want to install video surveillance cameras on or near the stop-arm equipment to capture stop-arm violators.
School Transportation News reached out to the mayor for comment on the new proposed bill but has not heard back at the time of this writing.