Motorists who pass a stopped school bus in South Carolina could be fined $1,000 to $2,000.
House Bill 3100, which passed the House Feb. 2 and heads to the Senate, doubles or triples the penalty for those who ignore the federally mandated flashing red lights and stop arm. The current law requires a fine of no less than $500 or a maximum of 30 days in jail for a first offense. In lieu of incarceration, the court could sentence 10 days of community service.
In addition to a first offense fine of no less than $1,000 and no more than $2,000, the legislation would also require the completion of “an appropriate term of community service of not fewer than 20 days.”
A second offense would increase the fine to $2,500 from $2,000. The bill also increases the penalties associated with bodily injury of a pedestrian hit by a motorist who passes a stopped school bus. It would change the fine to no less than $7,500. Currently, it’s punishable by a fine of no less than $5,000.
The bill directs all fines collected to be used to purchase extended school bus stop arms and other school bus equipment. However, the bill states that the South Carolina Department of Education indicates a concern that the fines collected will not be enough to cover the cost of extended stop arms and other school bus equipment on its total fleet of 5,600 bus most of which are owned, operated and maintained by the state.
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“Additionally, this bill allows the State Superintendent of Education to overrule the decision of a local school district regarding the placement of a student school bus stop. This is limited to school bus stops that the superintendent determines to be dangerous,” the legislation states.
The National Motorists Association, which opposes South Carolina state code 56-5-2773 that allows citations to be issued based on digital recordings of illegal passing incidents from bus-mounted video cameras, advocates that school districts move problematic bus stops as well as increase bus driver and student ridership training rather than utilize what it views as “money-grabbing” technology. South Carolina is one of 22 states that authorize the stop-arm camera footage for citations, while school districts or municipalities in at least a half-dozen other states allow the digital reporting technology.