In response to the terrible accident in Fulton County last year that claimed the lives of three schoolchildren, lawmakers are proposing a new measure to help keep school bus riders. It is simply unacceptable for motorists to put Hoosier kids in danger, and legislation I sponsored would hold drivers more accountable and help prevent another tragedy.
When a school bus lets a student on or off, a stop arm extends and lights flash to signal other drivers to stop. During this time, it is illegal to pass a bus from either direction. According to the Indiana Department of Education, more than 3,000 drivers recklessly disregard these signs each day. This adds up to more than 500,000 violations in an average school year.
Senate Bill 2 would increase penalties for drivers who disregard school bus stop arms. For a first offense, a driver could lose their license for 90 days, and after two or more offenses an individual could lose their driving privileges for a year. Additionally, the penalty for passing a school bus recklessly and causing injury or death would rise from a misdemeanor to a felony. To help improve public awareness of the law, additional school bus safety topics would be included on the exam for driver’s licenses.
The bill also includes several preventative measures. The kids in Fulton County were struck by an oncoming vehicle as they crossed the street to reach their school bus. To ensure children do not have to traverse busy roads like highways, bus routes would be adjusted. Schools would review these routes and safety policies each year. The State School Bus Committee would also develop and publish best practices for school bus safety. In addition, this legislation would create a process to petition for maximum speed limits to be reduced in certain areas that may be less safe than others.
This legislation has been dubbed the “MAX Strong” bill, in memory of the children who were killed, Mason, Alivia and Xzavier. Senate Bill 2 passed the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee and could be voted on by the full House in the coming weeks.
I have had a great number of visitors from home in the Statehouse the past couple of weeks. I appreciate the engagement and the conversations we have. I take them to heart and they do affect the way I approach issues and votes here. Remember, it’s your state government, so participate in it!
Rep. Ethan Manning (R-Denver) represents House District 23, which includes portions of Cass, Fulton and Miami counties.
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