It’s the worst thing any parent can face – losing their child to a crash caused by a negligent driver. That’s what happened last October in Fulton County. The day started like any other, as children waited at the bus stop. The bus pulled up on the opposite side of the road with the stop arm extended, and three children entered the road. As the children crossed the road to board the school bus, they were fatally struck by a driver.
Parents and lawmakers take action
This tragic event spurred parents and lawmakers to take action. After the parents made a complaint to the school district regarding the bus stop, they were referred to State Senator Randy Head. The fight was taken to the Statehouse where the M.A.X. Strong Act was authored.
The bill unanimously passed the Senate and moved through the Indiana House of Representatives in March. In the original language, cameras would be provided by corporations and funded by fines collected from stop-arm violators. Many school districts lack the funds to purchase and install cameras on all buses. Lawmakers who opposed the provision expressed concerns with sharing revenue from traffic violations with private companies.
What to expect with the M.A.X. Strong Act
The bill, also known as Senate Bill 2, was recently signed into law by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and will take effect July 1, 2019. The new law will increase penalties for drivers who violate school bus traffic laws, such as passing a bus when the stop arm is extended. In addition, it will also mandate roadside pickups on state or federal highways, and require yearly bus stop reviews.
Penalties for stop-arm violators include:
- A first offense could result in a driver’s license suspension up to 90 days
- A second offense could be up to one year
- A violator who passes a stop arm on a roadway or private road could be charged with a class A misdemeanor
- If an injury occurs, a violator could be charged with a class 6 felony
- If a death occurs, a violator could be charged with a class 5 felony
In order to catch stop-arm violators, one Indiana school district is taking the lead on implementing cameras on stop arms. Since the testing of stop-arm cameras began, the district captured footage of a truck driver passing a school bus with its stop arm extended and lights flashing. A school official was able to identify the company.
The law is pretty clear – when a stop arm is extended, drivers are required to stop and wait. Those who fail to do so should be held accountable.