INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law last week that will crack down on motorists who illegally pass school buses, establish requirements for bus safety practices, and allow reimbursement for stop-arm camera equipment.
As SBF previously reported, Senate Bill 2 increased penalties for violating a stop arm from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. Additionally, penalties are raised from a Class A misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony for a stop-arm runner if the action results in injury, and to a Level 5 felony if the action results in death. The court may also suspend the motorist’s driving privileges for 90 days for a first offense, or, if the motorist has committed at least one previous school bus passing offense, for one year.
Under the new law, the court can also charge a motorist convicted of a stop-arm violation a “safe schools” fee between $200 and $1,000. One-quarter of those fees goes into a county, city, or town’s general fund, and qualified school districts can petition the county council or township board for the funds for school bus stop-arm camera equipment. This is a change to an amendment, as SBF previously reported, that had been made to the bill in March that would have prohibited schools from using a share of fines collected from stop-arm runners to pay for the cameras.
The bill also establishes requirements for stopping, loading and unloading, crossing, and reviewing and sharing safety practices. Those requirements include:
• School bus drivers deploying flashing warning lights and a stop arm when loading and unloading students.
• Schools reviewing bus routes and safety policies.
• The state Department of Education posting on its website school bus safety guidelines and how to petition to reduce maximum speed limits in areas where students are boarding or exiting school buses.
• With some exceptions, prohibiting bus drivers from loading or unloading students at a location where they would need to cross a roadway, unless there are no other safe alternatives.
The law goes into effect on July 1.
Zach McKinney, the transportation director for Hamilton Southeastern Schools, told WISH that the district is testing exterior video cameras on some of its buses to catch illegal passers. He added that he eventually wants to install the cameras on all the buses, and that the reimbursement funds that the new law allows will help.
As SBF previously reported, the bill was prompted by the Oct. 30 stop-arm running incident in Rochester, Indiana, that killed three students and injured one other.