When it comes to school bus safety, children are often most at risk when crossing the road to get on or off the bus. Flashing lights and extended stop arms on buses warn drivers that children are present, and it is illegal to pass a stopped bus with active signals. Unfortunately, whether through carelessness or recklessness, too many drivers fail to follow this important traffic safety law.

According to a recent survey by the Indiana Department of Education, on a single day in 2019, more than 2,500 drivers across the state illegally passed stopped school buses. This startling statistic highlights just how frequently children face injury or even death due to motorist negligence.

Woman sentenced for bus stop accident that killed three siblings

On the morning of Oct. 30, 2018, a driver in Fulton County failed to stop for a waiting school bus with active stop signals, killing three children: twin brothers, age 6, and their half-sister, age 9. The crash, which occurred just north of Rochester, also seriously injured a fourth child, age 11.

The driver pleaded “not guilty” at the trial, claiming that she did see the flashing lights but did not realize that the stopped vehicle was a school bus. However, the court found her guilty of criminal recklessness and passing a school bus causing injury, as well as three counts of reckless homicide. The sentence included four years in prison, three years of house arrest and a 10-year driver’s license suspension.

New Indiana law creates stiffer penalties for illegal passing

This tragic accident brought renewed attention to the issue of school bus stop safety. Last spring, the Indiana Senate passed a new law imposing stricter penalties and increased fines for drivers passing a bus illegally. Depending on the county, doing so may now result in a civil infraction comparable to a DUI or even lead to a criminal conviction.