Rep. Dan Wolgamott and Sen. Scott Newman introduced similar legislation to crack down on motorists that illegally pass a stopped school bus.
HB 2172 states that the funds would be deposited into an account, to be appropriated to the commissioner of public safety to provide grants to school districts, charter schools and companies that provide school bus service for installing stop-arm camera systems or reimbursing for systems already purchased.
Meanwhile, SB 584 calls for a fine of no less than $300. If passed, $50 would be distributed to the law enforcement agency that issued the citation with the remaining going back to the school district involved to purchase, install, and maintain stop-arm cameras to catch additional motorists.
Currently, if an officer catches a motorist in the act of passing a school bus, a $500 fine could result. But such instances are rare. The legislation would allow for bus drivers or stop-arm cameras to record the license plate number of the car, without proof of who was driving the vehicle, and cite the vehicle owner for an unknown petty misdemeanor fine.
If passed, the bills, which were introduced last month, would take effect on July 1.
“Far too many Minnesota motorists are unlawfully passing school buses while the stop-arm is extended,” Willian Hutton, executive director of Minnesota’s Sheriff’s Association, stated in a letter to the legislature. “This is a life-threatening scenario to the safety of our children as they commute to and from their school. In a normal school day, there are over 12,000 school buses on our streets. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 violations of this law per year, with only a fraction of offenders being ticketed. As fellow public servants, dedicated to the safety of all Minnesotans, we ask that you help us address this life-threatening public safety offense. Our children’s lives depend on our action.”
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Hutton added that last year, the National Transportation Safety Board called on states to enact laws providing local jurisdictions the authority to install stop-arm cameras and to issue citations to violators caught on cameras.
Currently, 22 states have laws allowing school districts to install stop-arm cameras on school buses to catch motorists illegally passing the vehicle. Kentucky recently introduced HB 189, which passed the House last month, to permit the use of the technology.