RICHMOND, Va. — One missing word in Virginia’s regulation on stopping for school buses allowed a motorist to recently avoid being convicted.
Now a state legislator has introduced a bill that would add “at” to fix the law.
As first reported by the Washington Post, the trial of 45-year-old John Mendez, who drove past a stopped school bus, ended with a judge acquitting him after Mendez’s lawyer pointed out the error in state law. It reads:
“A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.”
As the Post reported, an “at” was deleted when the law was amended in 1970. So, technically, it says that you have to stop a stopped school bus rather than stop at a stopped school bus.
“He can only be guilty if he failed to stop any school bus, and there’s no evidence he did,” Judge Marcus Williams said in Mendez’s trial.
On Dec. 7, Virginia Delegate Scott Surovell pre-filed a bill that aims to eliminate the loophole by plugging in the missing “at.”
“The now corrected phrase ‘at any school bus’ … gives the sentence, and the law, its intended meaning,” the bill summary says.
Surovell told the Ford Hunt Patch that "the entire episode demonstrates why it is very important for all of us to be very careful in how we write our laws and do our jobs. Two letters can put children's lives in danger."
At press time, committee referral for the legislation was pending. The Virginia General Assembly's 2011 regular session is set to convene on Jan. 12.