UniteGPS – School bus stop-arm violations and unlawful passes have become so rampant in Indiana that the Senate recently introduced Bill 121 to ticket the vehicle’s registered owner for verified infractions.
Sponsored by Indiana Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell), the legislation will allow law enforcement officers to retroactively charge the owner of the vehicle that passes a stopped school bus. This is regardless of who was operating the vehicle at the time of the violation.
If the Indiana House of Representatives approves the bill, school bus stop-arm violations will become a class B infraction costing up to $1,000 per incident. Like a parking ticket, Senate Bill 121 will allow police to issue a to the registered vehicle owner for school bus stop-arm violations instead of having to first identify them.
School bus stop-arm violations in Indiana
Leaders like Katrina Falk, Director of Transportation at Shelby Eastern Schools in Indiana, support this legislation due to the impunity surrounding stop-arm prosecutions. According to her, her community has seen repeated violations without any follow-up from local attorneys. At best, police may issue a ticket without any further action.
“We need more protection from the law in order to prosecute these drivers to the fullest extent possible,” said Falk in a recent correspondence with UniteGPS.
To demonstrate, Falk told UniteGPS about a school bus stop-arm incident in Shelby occurring on a major highway with a distracted semi-truck driver. When the bus driver realized what was going on and pulled over, the speeding vehicle passed going over 60 miles per hour, reportedly leaving less than a foot of space. From Falk’s perspective, it was a miracle that the opposing lane of traffic was empty.
With the video footage in hand, Falk identified the trucking company belonging to the speeding vehicle. Yet prosecutors are still not touching the case despite the evidence. Falk even went to the State Director of Transportation Mike LaRocco saying that a description of the driver wasn’t necessary to prosecute.
“It was a clear stop arm violation, and it could have resulted in a deadly accident.”
READ MORE: Exterior school bus cameras to combat illegal passes progresses in Florida Senate
More information about Bill 121
For the most part, drivers and cameras can only grab the vehicle’s license plate number instead of identifying the driver or vehicle owner. Rightfully so, school bus drivers are often too occupied with ensuring safe pick-ups and drop-offs to even catch those details.
In the long run, the difficulty to discern who’s at fault in these circumstances is why school bus stop-arm violations are so difficult to prosecute as a misdemeanor. Take Tri-Creek School Corp in Lowell, for example, where zero of the 256 school bus stop-arm violations have been prosecuted.
Per the new measure, vehicle owners can challenge tickets by proving that their vehicle was stolen, rented, used by an employee, or out of state during the incident. As far as opposition goes, critics of the bill want to see more due process to protect Hoosiers from illegitimate fines.