COLUMBUS — The Senate Wednesday unanimously passed the School Bus Safety Act, sponsored by State Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green).
It will bring more awareness to school bus safety issues and increase penalties for people who violate laws designed to protect students while going to and from school, according to a release from Gavarone’s office.
The Columbus Dispatch reported in 2018 that between 2015 and 2017 there were 4,306 accidents involving a school bus and 4,198 drivers cited for failing to stop for a school bus that was loading or unloading children.
School administrators, law enforcement, school bus drivers and parents believe the real number is much higher and that impatience, more than ignorance of current laws regarding improperly passing a school bus, is to blame.
Under the bill, the fine for improperly passing a school bus will double on the first offense. For repeat offenders, the fine will increase $250 and include a rise in level of driver’s license suspension for each violation.
The legislation will also enhance the penalty for vehicular homicide or vehicular assault, and creates a new penalty to ensure that any driver who hits or kills a child with their car, regardless of injury severity, will face a felony if it happened as a result of improperly passing a school bus.
“Quite simply, there is no excuse to illegally pass a school bus,” Gavarone said. “The safety of our students around school buses is of the utmost importance, and I am proud my colleagues joined me today in taking action to protect them.”
The legislation also creates a pilot program that will allow districts across the state to apply for school bus cameras and designates August as School Bus Safety Awareness Month.
Senate Bill 134 will now be sent to the House for further consideration.