Gov. Bob McDonnell signed four bills this spring designed to make school bus transportation even safer, including increasing penalties for motorists who illegally pass school buses stopped to load and unload students and allowing school districts to install stop arm video cameras to capture offenders.
Effective July 1, all motorists will be cited for reckless driving if they fail to come to a complete stop when approaching a school bus “that is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.” HB indicates that motorists must stop for the school buses on either side of the street, and they must remain stopped until all the students or other pedestrians clear the road, the school bus stop arm is retracted and red lights are turned off, and the bus drives away.
Convictions can result in a fine of $250.
“The foremost obligation of government is public safety, and protecting our youngest citizens so that they may focus on their education is a moral obligation for all Virginians,” said McDonnell in a statement. “We are charged with protecting more than 1.3 million students in Virginia’s schools, so it is vital that law enforcement has additional tools available to combat the potential violence and crimes that can make our institutions of learning scary places for students.”
McDonnell also signed a related bill, HB1911, amends state code to authorize municipalities to adopt ordinances to allow school districts to contract with vendors to install and operate video-monitoring systems in or on school buses to capture drivers in the act of passing stopped school buses. The camera systems must record the vehicle license plate, the date and time of the moving violation and the activation of at least one of the school bus warning devices, such as the extended stop arm or the flashing red lights.
The existing law continues to allow the testimony of school bus drivers, student transportation supervisors or a law enforcement officials as prima facie evidence that a motorist illegally passed a school bus.
In other school bus safety news, McDonnell signed into effect HB2026 to prohibit anyone convicted of a sex crime and listed in the state’s Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry from driving school buses or being issued a CDL to drive school buses. Violations will result in a Class 2 misdemeanor, and any current school bus drivers found to be registered as sex offenders will have their CDLs revoked.
A related bill, HB2066, prohibits sex offenders from entering school property, which includes school buses. Violation of the law is punishable as a Class 6 felony.