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.