INDIANAPOLIS — A state lawmaker plans to re-introduce a bill that would toughen penalties for motorists who illegally pass school buses after three students were killed when a motorist allegedly ran a stop arm, CBS 4 reports.
The bill that Sen. Eric Bassler plans to propose for the second time in January would elevate the penalty for illegally passing a school bus from a traffic ticket to misdemeanor charges. Motorists could be arrested and serve jail time if his bill passes, according to the news source. The bill would also allow school bus drivers, monitors, and school crossing guards to file a sworn affidavit if they witness a motorist run a stop arm, according to the news source. An officer has to witness the violation to be able to ticket a motorist under current law, Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine told CBS 4.
As School Bus Fleet previously reported, Bassler had introduced the bill, SB 326, in 2016. The bill then stated that a motorist who was found to have violated a stop arm would be cited with a Class B misdemeanor, and would be charged a fine of up to $1,000. If the motorist was found to have illegally passed a school bus with its stop arm extended and caused bodily injury to a person, they would be cited with a Class A misdemeanor, which would include a fine of up to $5,000. The bill did not pass then, but Bassler told CBS 4 that he hoped lawmakers will reconsider it this year.
Bassler’s effort comes on the heels of a crash in October in Rochester, Indiana, in which a motorist allegedly violated a stop arm and struck four students, killing three and seriously injuring one other.
Meanwhile, a petition submitted to the White House is calling to make it against federal law to pass a stopped school bus. The petition, titled "Make bus stop safety a federal law," called for penalties such as jail time, a 90-day driver’s license suspension, 12 penalty points on a driver’s license, and a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000 for the first offense.