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Indiana Law Targets Registered Owners of Illegally Passing Vehicles

The Indiana state Senate recently approved legislation – Senate Bill 121 – that allows police to ticket the registered owner of a vehicle that illegally passes a school bus with its stop arm extended, no matter who was driving. The legislation provides a defense for vehicle owners who cooperate with law enforcement if:

  • The vehicle was stolen
  • The registered owner routinely rents the vehicle
  • The registered owner let an employee use the vehicle
  • The registered owner can prove the owner was out of state when the violation occurred

The law, introduced by Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell), specifies that the bureau of motor vehicles can’t assess points for the infraction and that adjudication for the infraction doesn’t create a presumption of liability in a civil action. Critics of the law want more due process protections for vehicle owners to avoid improper ticketing.

New Jersey Forms Office of School Bus Safety

In January, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law legislation that created a statewide office under the Department of Education to oversee the school bus industry.

The new Office of School Bus Safety will be responsible for ensuring that school bus drivers are certified and get proper background checks. The office also will recommend changes to school bus safety rules and regulations.

South Carolina Law Would Boost Penalties for Illegal Passing

Under a new South Carolina law, a driver who commits their first offense of illegally passing a stopped school bus could expect a fine between $1,000 and $2,000 – up from $500. A second or subsequent offense, deemed a misdemeanor, would result in fines between $2,500 and $5,000, and either 30-60 days of imprisonment or a 30-day driver’s license suspension.

“This bill also increases the penalties associated with great bodily injury of a pedestrian while unlawfully passing a stopped school bus,” the legislation stated. “Currently, the offense for great bodily injury of a pedestrian is punishable by a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 and imprisonment for not less than sixty days nor more than one year. This bill changes the fine for great bodily injury of a pedestrian to not less than $7,500 nor more than $10,000 and imprisonment to not less than ninety days nor more than one year.

Collected fines are earmarked for the purchase of extended school bus stop arms and other equipment. In the bill, it’s estimated that it would cost $10.6 million to equip South Carolina’s entire school bus fleet.

To get driving privileges reinstated, motorists covered by this law must successfully complete a classroom course in driver’s safety. The law also allows the state education superintendent to overrule a local school district’s decision about bus stop placement, if that stop’s location is determined by the superintendent to be dangerous.

The bill passed the state House (101-8) and now awaits consideration by the Senate.

Virginia School Bus Seat Belt Bill Stalls

State Delegate Paul E. Krizek (D-Alexandria) introduced a bill that would require new public school buses purchased for transporting students to be equipped with a seat belt that included a lap belt and shoulder strap or harness in every seat. The bill also would require the state Board of Education to ensure that all school buses have those seat belts no later than July 1, 2040. However, a House subcommittee voted 8-0 to table the proposed legislation on Jan. 25.

Big Yellow Delivery Trucks Coming to Virginia?

State Sen. Siobhan S. Dunnavant (R-Henrico Co.) introduced a bill – the brainchild of a middle school robotics team - that permits local school boards in Virginia to enter into agreements with third-party logistics companies to allow for the use of school buses for package delivery when they’re not carrying students. The full state Senate approved the bill 40-0 on Feb. 14. It now heads to the state House of Delegates.

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