INDIANAPOLIS — A Hoosier motorist illegally passing a stopped school bus, especially if it results in a child being injured or killed, will face more severe penalties under legislation approved 88-0 Monday by the Indiana House.
Senate Bill 2 makes it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, to recklessly pass a stopped school bus when its lights are flashing and the stop-arm is extended.
Judges also gain the option of suspending a motorist's driver's license for up to 90 days for the first stop-arm violation, and up to one year for a repeated violation.
In addition, the measure makes it a level 6 felony, instead of a Class A misdemeanor, if a motorist recklessly drives past a stopped school bus and injures a child.
The crime is enhanced to a level 5 felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine, if a motorist causes death by recklessly passing a stopped school bus.
"The goal of this bill is to improve safety by sending a clear message to the public that passing a stopped school bus, with the stop-arm extended, is completely unacceptable," said state Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Denver, the sponsor.
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The legislation comes on the heels of an October crash in Fulton County that killed three children boarding a school bus.
It previously permitted school districts and private schools to contract with companies that would provide and install school bus cameras to record motorists recklessly driving past stopped buses in exchange for a cut of the fine revenue.
The House deleted that Senate-approved provision to avoid the appearance of "policing for profit" through camera enforcement.
Representatives also added school bus safety requirements, including mandating the use of reflective tape on the front, back and sides of buses, and encouraging districts to avoid placing bus stops where children have to cross busy streets to reach them.
The measure now returns to the Senate for lawmakers there to either consent to the House changes, or agree to work with the House on a compromise proposal that must be re-approved by both chambers to advance to the governor.