NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Ohio - A proposed state law would stiffen penalties against drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus.
Senate Bill 134, or the "School Bus Safety Act,” was introduced Monday by Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-District 2), who represents Erie County, and will be referred to a Senate committee.
The proposal doubles the fine for a first offense to up to $1,000. For repeat offenses, the fine increases by $250 and includes a rise in the level of driver’s license suspensions.
“We need to make sure our kids are protected,” Gavarone said. “We need to really send a message to drivers: you can't be in too big of a hurry to drive by a school bus.”
The bill would also create a $500,000 pilot program through which school districts could apply for school bus cameras. It also makes sure video evidence from cameras is admissible in court.
“I hope it sends a strong message that this is a serious offense,” Gavarone said.
The problem has become so big in North Ridgeville, the community launched a campaign this school year that includes hundreds of yard signs warning drivers to follow the law. The North Ridgeville City Schools purchased several buses with cameras and planned to purchase more.
North Ridgeville Mayor David Gillock says police have issued 73 citations so far this school year.
“I think this is a good step toward convincing people they need to be more careful,” he said of the proposed legislation.
Gillock said he would like to see legislators go further by allowing points to be added to driver’s licenses for offenses, which can increase insurance costs, as an additional deterrent.
“It's against the law. I think most people know that, so there's no excuse for it,” he said. “I think this increase in potential punishment is a good first step.”