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School bus stop arm violations aren’t currently 'enforceable.' New bill seeks to fix that

A yellow school bus stops at a bus stop with its red stop sign extended
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Lawmakers say current law to prosecute drivers who don’t stop when a school bus’s stop arm is extended has a major loophole – making it difficult to enforce.

Lawmakers say current law to prosecute drivers who don’t stop when a school bus’s stop arm is extended has a major loophole – making it difficult to enforce. A bill to close that passed out of a Senate committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 30 would require the registered owner of a vehicle that is caught passing a school bus while the stop sign is engaged to submit documentation and evidence that they were not the driver at the time of the violation.

Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell) authored the bill. He said this issue came to his attention when he noticed many violators in the district he represents were not being prosecuted.

“They had something like 500 or 600 violations in a three-year period of stop arm violations of people going around the arm when the arm is fully extended,” he said. “And, it wasn’t not much prosecution in it – not hardly any at all – because the image is not there of the driver. The image is there of the license plate.”

Niemeyer said his hope is that this new bill will make these violations more “enforceable.”

Chris Lagoni is with the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association. He said with the current Indiana law, many violators use similar excuses to avoid consequences.

“And then the people are using the defense ‘Oh, it wasn’t me, I let somebody else use my car’ and the prosecutor is busy and so the issue just dies,” he said.

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He said the new bill would require the registered owner of the vehicle to submit evidence in order to prove they were not driving the vehicle, making it easier for prosecutors to go after those who violate these provisions.

Lagoni said the evidence that a vehicle has run a stop sign while a bus arm is extended is not an issue.

“The issue is really not the video,” he said. “There's plenty of video is what I'm hearing from superintendents.”

It is currently a class A infraction if a driver does not stop while a bus stop sign is extended. The new bill adds a section into this code which would require the registered owner of a vehicle who commits a violation to submit specific documentation to either prove their vehicle was stolen or that the owner was not in close proximity to their vehicle when the infraction occurred.

Additionally, the owner must provide all information about the person who was driving their vehicle and fully cooperate with law enforcement.

Lisa Tanselle is a staff attorney with the Indiana School Boards Association. She said this bill gives prosecutors better resources to go after those who commit these violations.

“We do appreciate Senator Niemeyer’s efforts to give prosecutors this enhanced authority, to charge the driver of a vehicle under the circumstances outlined in his bill,” she said.

The new bill would also change the violation from a class A to a class B infraction. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate committee and will now head to the Senate floor.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.

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