The illegal passing of school buses that have their stop arms extended and loading lights flashing makes national headlines regularly because of the sheer number of violators. Now, two Pennsylvania lawmakers are introducing legislation to give students who ride in school vans the same level of protection as those who take the yellow bus. The bill, authored by Rep. Gary Williams and co-sponsored by Rep. Eugene DePasquale would place school vans under the requirements of the school bus stopping law. At this report, there was no bill number assigned as Williams said they were still preparing to introduce it to the full legislature.
Federal regulations do not prohibit the use of vans by schools, but require any new van with a capacity of more than 10 that is sold or leased for use as a school bus to meet the safety standards applicable to school buses, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But each state prescribes its own regulations that apply to the use of any vehicle that transports students. Vans are often used for school activity trips and sometimes for transporting preschool and special needs students.
The Pennsylvania legislation would require school van drivers to activate the vehicle’s four-way flashers at least 100 feet before stopping, and at 300 feet if traveling in excess of 35 miles per hour. In addition, motorists would not be permitted to pass the school van when it is stopped during the loading and unloading of students or when it has activated its four-way flashers. But vehicles traveling in the opposite direction on a divided highway would be exempt. Violations would carry a $250 fine.
“Parents should never have to worry about the safety of their children on their way to and from school. This bill will help ensure a safer roadway for students, no matter their mode of transportation,” said DePasquale.
Meanwhile, several states are working on or have recently passed new legislation that increases penalties for illegally passing stopped school buses, including New York, Michigan, Georgia, Iowa and Nebraska. Iowa’s “Kadyn’s Law” has since inspired federal legislation that would extend penalties nationwide to motorists convicted of passing stopped school buses.
The 28 states that participated in the latest count of illegal school bus passers, a program created by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation, recorded approximately 38,000 violations.
Every year about a dozen schoolchildren are fatally injured as pedestrians in the loading and unloading zone around school buses, according to NHTSA.