WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two federal lawmakers proposed a closer look into ways to prevent school bus passing incidents nationwide this week.
U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) introduced on Wednesday the Stop for School Buses Act, (H.R. 2218). The bill aims to improve efforts to prevent illegal passing by directing the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to conduct a comprehensive review of existing laws and programs in all 50 states, recommend best practices, and create a nationwide public safety campaign, according to a news release from Walorski’s office.
Under the bill, the U.S. DOT would:
• Compile illegal passing laws in all states, including levels of enforcement and penalties.
• Review existing public safety measures and programs to prevent illegal passing of school buses.
• Issue recommendations on best practices for preventing illegal passing.
• Evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies that may help prevent illegal passing incidents.
• Review driver education materials in all states to determine whether more information about illegal passing should be provided to drivers.
• Research connections between illegal passing of school buses and other safety issues.
• Create and execute a public safety messaging campaign to promote safe driving when children are present and highlight the dangers of illegal passing.
Walorski announced the bill Thursday at the Rochester School Corp. following a demonstration of recently installed school bus cameras. She also met with the parents of three siblings who tragically lost their lives in October when they were hit by a pickup truck while crossing the street to board their bus. As SBF previously reported, Alivia Stahl, Xzavier Ingle, and Mason Ingle died, and a fourth student was injured when they were struck by a vehicle passing a school bus with its stop arm extended.
“The tragic loss of young Hoosiers in bus-related crashes last year, including in Fulton County, was a reminder that life is precious and that we all need to work together to keep children safe,” Walorski said. “Every driver has a responsibility to exercise caution when students are present, and that includes never passing a school bus that is stopped with red lights flashing or its stop arm extended. The Stop for School Buses Act will help our states and local communities take the most effective actions to prevent illegal passing of school buses and ensure students are safe when traveling to and from school.”
“As a mom and a former school board member, ensuring our children get safely to and from school every day is an issue that is near and dear to my heart,” Brownley said. “We need to do more to educate drivers and to assess new technologies that can prevent illegal school bus passing. Kids’ lives depend on it.”
The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) said in a news release on Friday that it commends Walorski and Brownley for introducing the bill.
“The National School Transportation Association appreciates the work of Rep. Walorski and Rep. Brownley to introduce the Stop for School Buses Act of 2019,” said Blake Krapf, president of the NSTA. “The bill provides a comprehensive federal response to the important issue of preventing illegal passing of school buses so that we can ensure that students are just as safe getting on and off their yellow school buses as they are riding inside their yellow school buses, the safest form of transportation over all others. NSTA stands ready to help build support for the bill as it moves through Congress.”
The NSTA added in the release that an average of nine to 15 students are killed annually while boarding or exiting their school buses by oncoming traffic, and that data indicates that a total of 15 million illegal passing incidents occur during every 180-day school year.
The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit on Thursday, according to the U.S. Congress website.