A U.S. Senate and House committee reported out their surface transportation reauthorization bills with previously proposed legislation that aims to address the illegal passing of school buses. - File photo courtesy Lois Cordes

A U.S. Senate and House committee reported out their surface transportation reauthorization bills with previously proposed legislation that aims to address the illegal passing of school buses.

File photo courtesy Lois Cordes

Federal legislation designed to invest in the U.S.’s infrastructure now includes markups with language intended to take action to prevent illegal passing of school buses.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees have reported out their surface transportation reauthorization bills with key provisions that address stop-arm running, according to a news release from the National School Transportation Association (NSTA). The former reported out the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021 on Thursday and the latter approved its Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America Act) last week.

The NSTA said in its news release that it applauds the committees for their inclusion of the “STOP for School Buses Act” (STOP Act) (H.R. 1994) in the final versions.

As School Bus Fleet previously reported, the legislation would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to review illegal passing laws, penalties, and enforcement levels in all 50 states, as well as various technologies and driver education materials. It would identify the most effective approaches, make recommendations on best practices, and direct the U.S. DOT to implement a public safety messaging campaign.

The organization singled out bill sponsors — Representatives Jackie Walorski and Julie Brownley and Senators Todd Young and Gary Peters — for their unwavering support of this initiative over the last two Congresses.

The bill evolved from, as SBF previously reported, H.R. 2218, which the Representatives initially introduced in April 2019, following the tragic Rochester, Indiana, crash in October 2018 that killed three students and severely injured one other when they were struck by a vehicle passing a school bus with its stop arm extended.

While school bus transportation is the safest form of transportation over all other modes according to U.S. DOT statistics, the NSTA noted in the news release, the most pressing problem facing it is students being killed by oncoming traffic while boarding or disembarking their school buses.

Data indicates that a total of 15 million illegal passing incidents are occurring during every 180-day school year and the numbers have been rising.

The STOP Act will help states and local communities take the most effective actions to prevent illegal passing of school buses and ensure students are just as safe getting on and off their school buses as they are riding them, according to the NSTA.

“Statistically, it is notable that children are in more danger outside of a school bus than they are riding in a yellow bus, and the STOP Act seeks to determine the root causes of why distracted driving around school buses has become such an epidemic,” said NSTA President John Benish.

The NSTA also recognizes House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio and Ranking Member Sam Graves for their support of inclusion of the STOP Act, as well as other school bus safety measures in their bill.

More broadly, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 authorizes $303.5 billion over five years to upgrade the nation’s highways, roads, and bridges with a new focus on addressing climate change, and improving safety and equity, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. It is also viewed as “the first down payment” President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, the committee reports.

 

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