February 23, 2021

Passing Stopped Indiana School Buses Could Get Pricier

Pixabay/public domain

Pixabay/public domain

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana drivers could find themselves facing more frequent and pricier tickets for illegally passing stopped school buses under a bill the state Senate passed Tuesday.

Like cameras that already capture images of drivers speeding and running red lights, the measure authored by Republican Sen. Rick Niemeyer would allow police to cite drivers based on photos taken by cameras affixed to some school buses' stop sign arms instead of having to witness such violations themselves.

“The main crux of this bill is we have a responsibility ... as legislators in the state of Indiana, working on the issue of school safety, to do the best we can to make these laws work,” said Niemeyer.

Under the bill, a first stop-arm violation would be a Class B infraction accompanied by a fine of up to $1,000. Any subsequent violations would be Class A infractions with fines of up to $10,000 per incident.

Some Democrats pushed back against the bill, arguing that vehicle owners could be penalized without proof that they were driving when a violation occurred.

However, Niemeyer said the bill includes protections for such owners, including rental car companies, but requires them to work with law enforcement to identify drivers who break the law.

The Senate approved the bill in a 38-11 and advanced it to the House.

In 2019, Indiana lawmakers approved tougher penalties for drivers who pass school buses with extended stop arms after three children were fatally struck while crossing a highway. Now, a driver convicted of recklessly passing a stopped school bus faces a 90-day license suspension for a first offense and a year's suspension for a repeat offense. Felony penalties were also created for recklessly passing a bus and injuring or killing someone.

Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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