A tragic school bus related accident that killed three Indiana children and critically injured a fourth this week has spurred conversations among school districts and lawmakers about bus and driver safety.
The driver who struck the children early Tuesday morning says she didn’t see the bus.
The Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation has already moved the bus stop where the accident occurred and is examining other routes in the district as well.
Meanwhile, the Rochester School Corporation, which neighbors Tippecanoe, has implemented changes to several of its bus stops.
Superintendent Jana Vance says, as of Thursday, multiple bus stops no longer require students to cross busy roads.
“It is the right thing to do, and when you’re talking about students and doing the right thing, you do what you need to do,” Vance says.
But Vance says, like with many added safety precautions, making changes like these can be a challenge because districts cover many miles. Many districts are even struggling with driver shortages.
The changes that the Rochester School Corporation is already making are ones Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie) is considering adding to legislation next year. Pressel worked on a distracted driving bill last year and was already drafting another version of that bill for the 2019 legislative session.
But for Pressel, the next step is clear. He wants to include new rules for work zone and school bus safety – something he says he’s been working on for a few weeks.
It’s too soon to know what the introduced bill will include, but changes for buses or the routes they take are some of the types of things he’s considering.
“It may be cameras on the stop arms it could be something that we say that you can only pick up from the curbside to protect our kids,” Pressel says.
It will also likely propose some kind of change to penalties for fast drivers in work zones or those illegally passing school buses, and education campaigns to spread awareness about those laws.
But Pressel says overall he wants to keep the unique challenges districts face, like Vance mentioned, in mind.
“I think an important part of it is getting all the feedback from different communities and school districts to see how this works for them, because I don’t know that a one-size-fits-all approach would work,” Pressel says.
Pressel says other lawmakers, including the House Transportation committee chair Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), and education committee vice chair Tony Cook (R-Cicero) are interested in the legislation, and at least one lawmaker in the Senate has expressed interest in being the bill’s sponsor if it advances.
But regardless of the outcome, he wants to send a message.
“People just really need to slow down and pay attention to their surroundings, that’s really what this is all about.”
“It truly does take a village, it’s not just the responsibility of the school district or the bus driver, it’s the responsibility of everybody out on the road to make a difference,” Vance says.
Pressel says he plans to file the bill some time in December. Lawmakers convene for the 2019 legislative session in January.