Bus safety bill gains local support

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A new effort is underway to improve school bus safety. Back in October three elementary students were killed while trying to board a bus in northern Indiana. Now lawmakers are looking to enact tougher penalties which could include jail time for running a stop arm on a bus. 

For the past 8 years Pastor Dan King has been a school bus driver for the South Vermillion School District. 

“You see a lot especially in Indiana,” South Vermillion school bus driver Dan King said. “You see a lot of different weather, road conditions, you see crazy people on the road sometimes.”  

King says the best part of his job is the relationships he’s built with students and their families.  

He backs an effort by lawmakers to improve school bus safety. 

“It’s not just you,” King said. “You know there are so many other lives that are right there on the line, right there at that particular moment that you’ve got to pay attention too and just that one moment of carelessness is just enough to devastate somebody, a family even a community because it hurts everybody, it effects everybody.” 

Indiana state law requires all drivers to stop and remain stopped when a school bus has its stop signs and flashing red light activated.  

However, according to a study done by the Indiana Department of Transportation this law is ignored far too often.  

Between April of 2017 to April of 2018 motorists violated the law 554 thousand times. 

King’s bus routes are mostly in rural area, but he’s had a couple of close calls.   

“I would say I’ve probably had at least 6 or 7 that I’ve personally had,” King said. “I know a lot of the other drivers had many more than that. 

Currently if a motorist runs stop arm, they could receive a fine of as much 10 thousand dollars, but the average is 160 dollars 

Senate Bill 2 would strengthen the penalties for running a stop arm violation.  

If passed a driver could be arrested and spend time in jail.  

South Vermillion Transporation Director David Henry likes the idea. 

“This is something we can do on a state level that helps our school system do their job to keep all of these kids safe,” South Vermillion Transporation Director David Henry said.   

It would also classify violations as a misdemeanor.  

And it would allow bus drivers, school bus monitors, and crossing guards to fill out sworn affidavits if they see a violation. 

“And unfortunately, this is one of those times where we have to say this is serious and we need you, we need your support, and we need you we need you to watch what you are doing on the streets in these communities,” Henry said.  

At South Vermillion all buses have stop arm cameras that collect the drivers face and license plate number when someone runs the stop arm. 

The senate judiciary committee will hear Senate Bill 2 when it meets Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the statehouse. 

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