CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new state law increases penalties for motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses.
Gov. Joe Manchin signed the legislation into law on April 1. It was prompted by the death of 6-year-old Haven McCarthy, who was hit by a passing vehicle as she got off her bus in 2007.
Fines for stop-arm running previously ranged from $50 to $200. The new law raises that range to $150 to $500, and it adds the possibility of license suspension. For a third or subsequent offense, mandatory jail time of between one day and six months will be included with a $500 fine.
Also, injuring or killing a child while passing a stopped school bus can now be charged as a felony, with fines ranging from $500 to $3,000 and jail sentences ranging from one to 10 years.
Ben Shew, state pupil transportation director for West Virginia, said that the new law should be a deterrent and that “a decrease in stop-arm violations should result.”
“Multiple offenses will also be costly to the offending driver,” Shew said, and “injuring or taking a child’s life will have significant consequences.”
Shew noted another measure that should help in the effort to enhance student safety: Some counties in the state are putting cameras on their buses that can capture the license plate of offending drivers.