Lawmakers in two states recently proposed tougher penalties — including doubling fines and driver’s license suspension time periods — on motorists who illegally pass school buses, and one state is also making funding available for stop-arm cameras.
In Ohio, Sen. Theresa Gavarone sponsored SB 134, also known as the “School Bus Safety Act.”
If enacted, the bill would:
• Create a graduating list of penalties starting with raising the fine for passing a school bus the first time to $1,000 (the current fine is $500) and suspend a violating motorist’s driver’s license for increasing time periods.
• Establish new aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault offenses related to illegally passing a stopped school bus.
• Allow stop-arm cameras to be installed on school buses to record images of violators and use as evidence of the violations.
• Appropriate a total of $500,000 ($250,000 in fiscal year 2020 and $250,000 in fiscal year 2021) for school districts that apply for grants to buy and install the cameras on their buses.
• Require the state Department of Public Safety to establish procedures to implement and distribute the grants, as well as submit a report to the Governor and the General Assembly on the number of violations captured by the cameras in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 compared with the those that were detected by other means in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The department would also need to submit an estimate of the amount of money needed to purchase and install the cameras on all eligible school buses in the state.
Additionally, the bill would designate August as “School Bus Safety Awareness Month,” with the aim of increasing public awareness of stopping for stopped school buses.
“Our children's safety is my biggest priority, and I look forward to continuing our work to protect them,” Gavarone stated in a post on her Facebook page.
As SBF previously reported, Rep. Niraj Antani proposed a similar bill, House Bill 89, in March. That bill would also double fines on offenders and appropriates $1 million in grants to school districts to purchase stop-arm cameras in fiscal year 2020. It is currently sitting in the Criminal Justice Committee, according to the Ohio Legislature’s website.
Meanwhile, in Florida, Sen. Ed Hooper filed SB 290 on Monday. The bill would double the fines for failing to stop for a stopped school bus (from $100 to $200 for passing on the left side and from $200 to $400 for passing on the right side, where students load and unload); and suspend a violator’s driver’s license for a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years after a second offense within five years. Rep. Ardian Zika filed a companion bill, HB 37, last month.
If the Florida bills are signed into law, the fines and license suspensions would go into effect on July 1, 2020.