Legislation that would increase the penalty for illegally passing a school bus has been approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The measure, S-400, is sponsored by Senator Robert Singer (R-30) and Senator Diane Allen (R-7).
“We know from school bus drivers that people routinely ignore the flashing red lights that are meant to protect children when they are crossing to and from their buses,” said Singer. “It’s clear that the current monetary penalties, as low as $100, are simply not enough to discourage drivers from breaking the law and putting children at risk. This legislation is an important step that will help stop preventable tragedies from occurring.”
Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have found that an average school bus is passed illegally once per day in the United States, resulting in an average of 21 children being injured or killed each year while getting off or on their school bus. Half of those children are between the ages of five and seven years old.
Data provided by the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts shows that 2,398 drivers were charged with illegally passing a school bus in New Jersey in 2009. In 2008, 2,771 drivers were charged.
“Thousands of drivers are charged every year in New Jersey with illegally passing a school bus, and due to the difficulty of identifying violators to issue tickets, we know that the number of actual occurrences is significantly higher,” said Allen. “Each time a driver breaks the law and passes a school bus with flashing lights, there is the potential that a child could be hurt or killed. We need to make the penalty strong enough that people’s first instinct will be to stop when they see the flashing lights of a school bus.”
Under the terms of the legislation, the fines assessed for illegally passing a school bus will be increased from $100 to $200 for a first offense, and from $250 to $500 for a second or subsequent violation, in addition to existing penalties, which include a five point motor vehicle assessment.