Improving student and school bus safety

State Senator Theresa Gavarone

        A growing problem across our state is putting the lives of students at risk—failure to stop for a school bus.
        According to the Columbus Dispatch, nearly 4,200 drivers in Ohio were ticketed for illegally passing a school bus from 2015-2017.
        To combat this critical issue, I introduced Senate Bill 134, the “School Bus Safety Act” earlier this year, and last month provided testimony to the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee.
        The issue really came to the forefront for me after learning about two incidents involving schools in my district. The first was a car that crashed into an Eastwood school bus and the second involved a bus from Archbold schools that was hit by a speeding semi-truck.
        Fortunately, no students were hurt in those accidents, but nearly a decade ago in Sylvania, a 15-year-old was not as lucky. Morgan Duris was hit and killed after a driver going 15 miles over the speed limit failed to stop for her bus.
        The “School Bus Safety Act,” among other provisions, doubles the fine for illegally passing a bus, clearly states that footage from bus cameras can be used as evidence in a legal proceeding, allocates money for school districts to purchase those cameras, and raises awareness of the issue by designating August as “School Bus Safety Awareness Month.”
        The bill also enhances penalties for drivers who hit or kill a student as the result of failing to stop for a bus. In addition, it creates the felony offense of “vehicular harm.”
        Quite simply, there is no excuse for illegally passing a stopped school bus. This bill will increase awareness of stopping for school buses, make drivers think twice about passing a school bus, and significantly strengthen penalties so that drivers who show little to no regard for the safety of children will be off the road longer.


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