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May 14, 2014  |   Comments (3)   |   Post a comment

Congressman pushes school bus safety 'overhaul' bill

By Thomas McMahon

Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley would set minimum penalties nationwide for stop-arm running, among other measures.

Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley would set minimum penalties nationwide for stop-arm running, among other measures.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would set national standards for stop-arm running penalties and school bus driver background checks, among other measures.

The legislation was introduced last week by Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), who has attempted to pass similar legislation in the past. A press release from Braley's office describes the new bill as "the most comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s school bus safety system in over 15 years."

“For many schoolchildren, their safety is more at risk coming and going from school than in the classroom or on the playground — and we can do something to change that,” Braley said. “When my kids were getting on the bus to go to school, I wanted every tool possible to keep them safe, and that’s a feeling all parents share.”

The bill contains five titles:

• Title I: “Kadyn’s Act,” named after an Iowa student who was fatally struck by a vehicle illegally passing her school bus in 2011, would set minimum penalties nationwide for stop-arm running. For a first offense, the fine would have to be at least $250. For a second offense in a five-year period, the fine would have to be least $315. In either case, there would be a possibility of jail time and license suspension.

• Title II would establish grants for motion-activated detection systems on the exterior of buses. These systems alert the driver when a moving target is detected within the danger zone around the bus.

• Title III would mandate that all states require background checks for school bus drivers. Iowa enacted such a law in 2012, but Braley said that some states are still operating without this requirement.

• Title IV calls for a school bus seat belt demonstration program. The U.S. Department of Transportation would create the program, which would allow states to apply for funding to purchase new large school buses with lap-shoulder belts or to equip current ones with lap-shoulder belts.

• Title V would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to assess the use of technology to get drivers to stop for school buses. An example would be studying how a particular lighting system might help prevent motorists from illegally passing stopped buses.

Under two of the programs in the bill, Title I (Kadyn's Act) and Title III (background checks), states would lose 10% of their federal highway funds if they do not implement the stipulated standards. The grant programs of Title II (motion detection systems) and Title IV (seat belts) would be funded by withheld highway funds from states that fail to implement the requirements of Title I and Title III.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. To read the full text, go here.

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Read more about: background checks, fatalities, Iowa, seat belts, stop arm running/illegal passing

You do NOT need stop-arm cameras. Most crashes involve the bus drivers running the students over. Look at the NHTSA studies. Drivers intentionally running school buses is VERY rare. Even so, why not use a plastic breakaway arm on the left side of the bus one second after flashing reds? Block the lane.

LinuxGuy    |    May 26, 2014 10:17 AM

I agree with seatbelts being very dangerous to have in a school bus if the school would ever catch fire, but the plus side of seatbelts would be that the students are sitting and are facing forward. I also agree that buses need stop sign cameras to help get drivers that run a stopped bus. I am in the state of Pennsylvania. We don't have license plates on the front of vehicles, so it is hard to get the license plate numbers to even report the incident.

TINA WATSON    |    May 16, 2014 07:34 AM

Seatbelts are very dangerous to have in a school bus if you have ever seen a school bus fire you would know that the students panic and can't get the seat belt off. The driver will not have time to get them all out of the bus before the bus is consumed with smoke and fire. I am a Transportation Director in the State of Iowa and the Magistrates for the most part do not enforce the new law because it involves the loss of the drivers license for 30 days. The best thing to do would be to take the loss of license off for the first offence. Get stop arm cameras installed on all of the buses and have the footage allowed as evidence in the courts. Then everyone would be better served in this issue. The courts would not feel like they are causing problems by taking away the drivers license from people that need to get to work.

Richard Beechum    |    May 15, 2014 12:31 PM

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