4/4/2012Congressman Pushes National School Bus Ticketing Law
Federal legislation would mandate all fifty states adopt fines of up to $1875 for passing a school bus.
As more and more cities across the country have opted to end photo enforcement programs, the companies that operate red light cameras and speed cameras have desperately sought new business models. One of the most successful of these from a legislative standpoint has been equipping school buses with cameras to entrap drivers. Several states have signed onto the program, and now a member of Congress wants to federalize the school bus ticketing process.
US Representative Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) last month introduced "Kadyn's Act" which would coerce all fifty states to adopt the same school bus fine program recently signed into law in Iowa. A first offense citation would run $250 and multiple tickets could add up to a maximum of $1875 each, with up to a year in jail.
States unwilling to sign on to this steep penalty schedule would lose ten percent of their annual federal highway funding. For California, that would mean a $400 million hit to the budget; Texas would lose $340 million; Florida would be out $200 million and Ohio $140 million. The legislation does not specify whether the penalty is to be issued by a camera, a police officer, or based solely on the accusation of a bus driver.
Braley named his bill after Kadyn Halverson who was struck and killed by a Chevy Silverado pickup truck in September 2011. According to police reports, the Silverado driver had marijuana in his system at the time of the accident and he claimed not to have seen the school bus or its flashing lights as the seven-year-old girl crossed the street. The man was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for vehicular homicide.
Such accidents are exceedingly rare. The fatalities that do happen involving a school bus are far more likely to be caused by school bus drivers hitting a child than ordinary motorists, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"Since 2000, 130 school-age pedestrians (younger than 19) have died in school transportation-related crashes," NHTSA's March 2011 fact sheet on School Transportation-Related Crashes explained. "Over two-thirds (67 percent) were struck by school buses, 6 percent by vehicles functioning as school buses."
Advocates of the cameras typically attribute each death of a child to reckless motorists who pass school buses, but the accident reports prove otherwise. Accidents were caused by the bus driver crashing into a fixed object, a child falling out of the bus, the bus colliding with a train and the bus overturning.
In practice, the majority of school bus camera tickets do not go to the owners of vehicles that endanger children. Instead, the system focuses on technical violations, including drivers who stop for the bus, but not at the specific distance required. In some states it is not necessary to stop on the opposite side of a divided highway, but the flexibility in the definition of roads that meet the definition creates the opportunity to trap and ticket confused motorists.
A copy of the bill is available in a 60k PDF at the source link below.