Proposed Legislation Would Increase Penalties for School Bus Stop Arm Violators

State legislators are looking to crack down on motorists who ignore stopped school buses. Under a bill filed by Senator Randy Head, failing to stop when a school bus arm is extended would go from a Class A infraction to a Class C misdemeanor.

Recklessly passing a school bus with its stop arm extended would increase from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor, or from a Class A misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony if it causes injury. First-time offenders would also have their driving privileges suspended for 90 days, under the legislation, or one year for repeat offenders.

Head’s bill would also put new requirements on schools. Buses traveling on a state or U.S. highway would be banned from loading or unloading students at a place that would require them to cross a roadway, unless no alternative is available. On other streets and highways, buses would have to pick up and drop off students as close to the right-hand curb as possible. On top of that, schools would have to review their bus routes and safety policies each year by September 1.

Meanwhile, the bill calls on the state school bus committee to work with the Indiana Department of Education to develop a list of bus safety guidelines, to be posted on the department’s website.

During a press conference Tuesday, Head mentioned the recent school bus accidents that have claimed the lives of four children in the area, according to a subsequent press release. He said he’s hopeful the legislation “would help prevent similar accidents from occurring by encouraging drivers to slow down, follow the rules of the road and keep the safety of our children in mind.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.