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Drivers who break Indiana school bus stop laws face stiffer penalties

The sight of a school bus stopped on the road with flashing lights and its stop-arm extended is a sure sign that summer is winding down. And with all of Indiana’s schools back in session for the year, it is likely you have already confronted a bus picking up children on an early morning or afternoon route.

This year also marks the start of stiffer penalties for drivers who disregard Indiana bus stop laws, largely as a result of the tragedy that played out last year in Rochester, Indiana.

For those who do not recall the details, three children were killed and one was seriously injured after a driver disregarded the stop-arm signal of a bus and attempted to pass. The negligent driver has since been charged with three counts of reckless homicide, among a number of other charges.

Unfortunately, after this incident, Indiana’s school bus drivers continued reporting instances of drivers ignoring stop signals, passing busses, and putting young lives at risk. In fact, on a single day last spring, school bus drivers recorded instances of drivers disregarding school bus signals. The total count of infractions? More than 2,600.

Considering the circumstances and potential devastation caused by a school bus stop accident, disregarding bus stop laws is one of the more selfish and risky acts a driver can take.

What happens to drivers who break Indiana’s school bus stop laws?

The Rochester bus accident resulted in new legislation that increases the penalties for Indiana drivers who disregard bus signals. Additionally, the bill requires specific pick-up guidelines and enforces an annual review of bus stops.

Specifically, if a driver fails to stop or disregards a bus signal, that person can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and potentially face up to one year in jail and/or fines of up to $5,000. However, if the driver injures someone as a result of disregarding a bus law, they can now be charged with a Level 6 felony and potentially face a half-year to two-and-a-half years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000.

(And while the term “felony” always denotes a serious offense, we thought it important to mention that this is the least serious of felonies under Indiana law. Some might argue that the penalties are still not strong enough.)

In the event that a driver passes a stopped bus and an accident results in a wrongful death, that person can be charged with a Level 5 felony and face up to six years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000.

Also new to Indiana’s law books are the potential impact these offenses will have on a driver’s license status. Indiana drivers now face the possibility of having their license revoked for 90 days for a first time bus stop offense. A second offense can result in a year suspension.

When do Indiana drivers need to stop for school busses?

In short, anytime you see a school bus that has flashing lights and/or its stop-arm extended you MUST come to a complete stop. And you must stay stopped until the bus’s lights and stop-arm are no longer flashing or extended. Some drivers are under the impression that they can proceed with caution, or they can pass a bus if children are not crossing the road in front of them. This is completely false.

The only time Indiana law does not require you to stop for a school bus that has flashing lights and/or its stop-arm extended is if you are traveling in the opposite direction on a multi-lane highway and it is divided by a physical barrier or an unimproved median.

It should also be noted that part of the new legislation has made a call for Indiana school buses to be outfitted with cameras that can record the license plate of drivers who fail to stop for a school bus.

Boulton Law Group remains hopeful that all buses will soon contain cameras that nab negligent drivers. There is simply no excuse for disobeying school bus laws.

Questions about Indiana’s school bus stop laws?

If you have additional questions about Indiana’s school bus stop laws, or want to know what you can do to help ensure incidents like the Rochester bus accident do not repeat themselves, you can speak to attorney Boulton and his legal staff at no cost.

Attorney Boulton is an award-winning Indianapolis personal injury lawyer with more than 20 years’ experience helping injured people across Indiana, including the families of children who have been seriously injured by negligent drivers.

We offer a Zero Fee Guarantee to families who have been affected by a tragedy that occurred at an Indiana bus stop. This means you will never be charged a consultation fee and our firm receives no payment unless we make a recovery on your behalf.

To speak to attorney Boulton direct, call 317-350-2680, or write to us using our confidential contact form. We look forward to going to work for you.

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