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January 12, 2010  |   Comments (5)   |   Post a comment

Mississippi may toughen penalties for illegal bus passing


JACKSON, Miss. — Motorists who pass stopped school buses would face harsher penalties under a bill that was introduced in the Mississippi State Legislature. 

Current Mississippi law states that if a driver passes a stopped school bus while children are present, he or she could face $200 to $500 fines or up to one year in prison.

“Nathan’s Law,” named after 5-year-old Nathan Key, who died in December while disembarking a school bus near his home, takes the current law further. First-time convicted offenders would have to pay fines of $500 to $5,000, and their driver’s license would be suspended for 30 days. For any subsequent offense, the bill would increase mandatory monetary sanctions to $800 or imprisonment for up to one year, or both, and license suspension for 90 days.

In addition, a violation resulting in the death or injury of a child would be a newly defined felony, and the offender could be sentenced up to five years in prison and fined up to $5,000.

“Nathan’s life was a dream of possibilities,” said Sen. Chris McDaniel, who introduced the bill. “His death represents the loss of some small part of our collective future, as well as the death of one of our most vulnerable and dependent. It is my hope that ‘Nathan’s Law’ makes a significant impact across the state by fostering a safer environment for Mississippi's children. Something positive must come from this terrible tragedy.”

The legislation also contains provisions for:

• The creation of a 30-foot buffer zone when a school bus is stopped with its stop sign extended and its lights flashing.

• The creation of a graduated penalty framework, providing enhanced penalties for subsequent violations.

• Prohibiting the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle within a school crossing zone unless the vehicle is stopped or the wireless communication device is used with hands-free accessories.

• Prohibiting school bus drivers from using wireless communication devices while driving.

• Requesting that the state Department of Education develop and issue curriculum guidelines to school districts relating to the implementation of a school bus safety curriculum in grades kindergarten through 3.

• Requiring that every written examination given to anyone applying for an operator's license or temporary driving permit ensure adequate knowledge on the part of the applicant in regard to school bus safety requirements.

• Encouraging the state of Mississippi to conduct a statewide marketing campaign to educate citizens on the new law and the importance of school bus safety.

• Authorizing school districts to mount cameras on school bus stop arms for the purpose of providing admissible evidence in a court of law concerning drivers who pass a stopped school bus.

• The creation of a school bus safety task force to study, research and develop new recommendations relating to school bus safety, including a detailed investigation into new school bus safety designs and technology related to safety and law enforcement.

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If there is a four lane road with a turn lane in the middle... and the bus is stopped on the north side of the road and no kids are crossing the street to reach it... do i have to stop on the other side... three lanes away?

E    |    Sep 20, 2012 06:52 AM

I strongly suggest those interested in a School Bus Drivers training program that is considered #1 in the country contact Roy Prince in the Department of Pupil Transportation in Frankfort Kentucky..Just google Roy Prince

Rex Parmelee    |    Jan 30, 2010 08:03 AM

I have three boys, two of which have taken a GA written drivers license test which had NO questions about buses. We need to get this important information to our drivers from the beginning of their driving careers and we can do it easily by have information in the "study book" provided by the state(s) and then have a couple of questions on the test!! I am a bus driver and I inform my students, but I am only reaching a few. This change on the drivers written test can save lives!!

Cecilia    |    Jan 22, 2010 06:38 AM

Good luck getting all those kids out of the bus if it is upside down or on fire and they cannot FREE themselfs. I guess this will give more reasons to sue school districts when kids die.

Softball Mom    |    Jan 13, 2010 07:03 AM

This should be Federal law. Killing a child ths way is inexcusible.

Sam    |    Jan 12, 2010 06:16 PM

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