RALEIGH, N.C. — A bill is making its way through the North Carolina General Assembly that would increase the penalties for passing a school bus with its stop arm deployed.
Under current law, it is illegal for motorists to pass a stopped bus while students are boarding or disembarking, but drivers who commit this violation don’t automatically have their license suspended.
Senate Bill 16 would amend the law by allowing the Division of Motor Vehicles to revoke the driver’s licenses of illegal bus passers. Upon the first conviction of a misdemeanor offense, the revocation period would be 30 days. Upon a second or subsequent misdemeanor conviction, the person’s license would be revoked for 90 days.
If the motorist is convicted of a Class I felony, meaning that he or she hit a person upon passing the bus, his or her license would be revoked for one year. If the motorist is convicted of a Class H felony, meaning that the motorist hit a person upon passing a bus and that person died as a result, the license revocation period would be two years.
Also under the bill, in the case of any conviction, the licensee would be able to apply to the sentencing court for a limited driving privilege, provided that the operator’s license has not also been revoked or suspended under any other provision of the law. A limited driving privilege would be valid for the period of revocation.
A person who violates the law and has a prior conviction for the same offense within the last year would not be eligible to enter a plea of guilty or no contest to a lesser offense or to a substitute charge that carries a lesser punishment.
If approved, the act would become effective on Dec. 1, 2013, and apply to offenses committed on or after that date.
On Tuesday, the bill passed a third reading in the Senate.
Other news on bus-passing penalties: