Bauer: Act should help usher in new era of school bus safety in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) said a new law set to take effect July 1 will help usher in a new era of school bus safety across Indiana.

Senate Enrolled Act 2, signed into law earlier this month and again today at a Statehouse ceremony by Gov. Eric Holcomb, increases penalties for drivers who pass school buses that have stopped to pick up passengers. Bauer was a co-sponsor of SEA 2, which came in response to the deaths of three children in Rochester, Indiana, who were struck and killed by a vehicle while attempting to board a bus last October.

“Their unfortunate deaths highlighted the need to pay closer attention to the risks that come from simply getting on a bus to go to school,” Bauer said. “Even with the sad circumstances that drew attention to this legislation, the need to emphasize bus safety was demonstrated again last month, when school bus drivers across Indiana reported more than 2,500 violations in one day of people driving past buses, even though the bus stop sign arms were lowered and flashing lights were activated.

“It is my hope that the tougher provisions contained in this state law will show that people must pay for placing such precious passengers at risk,” he continued.

SEA 2 makes it a Level 5 Felony to cause a death when recklessly passing a school bus. That crime carries a penalty of up to six years in prison.

Penalties also will be enhanced for recklessly passing a school bus (Class A Misdemeanor) and causing bodily injury when taking that action (Level 6 Felony). The new law also will give courts the discretion to suspend a driver’s license for recklessly passing a bus that has a stop sign arm extended.

“Just as importantly, this law will require school districts to regularly review bus routes and safety policies,” Bauer noted. “This will reduce or eliminate the risks that might cause children to have to cross state or federal roads in order to get on a bus. The law also can help some schools purchase cameras to assist law enforcement in identifying violators.”

The attention drawn to Bauer’s co-sponsored bill also has inspired action at the national level. U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana) and U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski  (R-Indiana) have introduced legislation asking for a comprehensive study of the dangerous and illegal passing of school buses in loading zones, as well as recommendations for improvements to enhance safety.

“People must realize the risks that come from not paying attention when they are driving near a school bus,” Bauer said. “With this law, they will be compelled to understand that there are penalties that will be paid. When it comes to the safety of our children, there can be no compromises.”

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