RICHMOND, Va. — A bill to clarify state law on school bus stop-arm running was signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell last week.
The legislation, which went into effect immediately due to it being deemed an emergency, was prompted by a recent case in which a Virginia man who drove past a stopped school bus was acquitted after his lawyer pointed out an error in the state law. It read:
“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.”
An “at” was reportedly deleted when the law was amended in 1970. So, technically, it said 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 the trial of 45-year-old John Mendez.
Two similar bills to correct the wording were introduced in the Virginia General Assembly, and one was absorbed into the other. The final version amends the law to read:
"A person driving a motor vehicle shall stop such vehicle 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 ... any person violating the foregoing is guilty of reckless driving."
Virginia Delegate Richard Anderson said that he was "pleased to patron this legislation to ensure that our children are safe on their trips to and from school. Parents expect us to take care of their students from the time they leave home and until they return. This bill does just that.”