INDIANAPOLIS — The introduction of a bill amendment that would let police seize the vehicle of a motorist who illegally passes a stopped school bus follows an announcement of a special school bus stop safety patrol program’s results.
Senate Bill 219, sponsored by Sen. Ron Alting, seeks to amend Indiana code related to criminal law and procedure by permitting civil forfeiture of a vehicle that is used to “recklessly” pass a school bus that is stopped and has its stop arm extended. The bill also addresses civil forfeiture of vehicles used to transport illegal substances, stolen property, hazardous waste, “A bomb … or weapon of mass destruction …,” or commit other crimes.
Senate Bill 219 was introduced and referred to the Judiciary Committee on Jan. 6. If the bill passes, the law would go into effect on July 1, according to the Indiana General Assembly's website.
Meanwhile, Gov. Eric Holcomb recently announced that more than 2,500 citations, of which 453 were for stop-arm violations, were issued as part of a program created to thwart illegal school bus passing around bus stops, the Chronicle-Tribune reports.
The Stop Arm Violation Enforcement (SAVE) grant program, which is funded by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and administered by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, provided funds to nearly 40 law enforcement agencies to conduct overtime patrols of school bus stops. As School Bus Fleet previously reported, Holcomb announced $380,000 in grant funding in August from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute for increased traffic enforcement near school bus stops across the state.
The departments issued a total of 2,675 citations and 1,430 warnings during a two-month period at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, according to the newspaper. With the funding, law enforcement officers conducted an additional 2,057 patrols and worked an extra 5,690 hours, focusing on speeding, aggressive driving, and stop-arm violations, among other dangerous maneuvers, near bus routes and stops.
Holcomb made the announcement on Jan. 2, WBIW reports.
Devon McDonald, the executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, told the Chronicle-Tribune that the program is the first of its kind in Indiana and neighboring states and that a “critical component” was teamwork between school bus drivers and law enforcement.
“There’s no excuse for driving dangerously or distracted around a school bus, but there are consequences,” Holcomb said in a Jan. 3 post on his Facebook page. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their child going to and from school, which is why we’ll continue to make improving bus stop safety a priority.”
A statewide crackdown on stop-arm running was spurred by a tragic crash that killed three students who were siblings and injured one other as they were trying to board their school bus on Oct. 30, 2018. It has included a new law, signed by Holcomb in May, that increased penalties for violating a stop arm from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor, and an opinion from the state’s attorney general that the board that establishes school bus safety standards can allow the use of extended stop arms in the state.