Student safety: Should U.S. adopt stiffer penalties for breaking bus laws?

A new Canadian law is being enforced in an effort to stop drivers from passing school buses that have their lights flashing. (WJAC)

A new Canadian law is being enforced in an effort to stop drivers from passing school buses that have their lights flashing.

According to the Canadian Broadcast Corp., if Canadian drivers don't stop for a school bus when they see those red lights flashing, they could lose their license for three months, face a fine of up to $5,000, and get 12 demerit points.

"I think it's a step in the right direction," said Richland School District Superintendent Arnold Nadonley. “I think Pennsylvania seriously needs to take a look at it. It happens, uh, more often than not."

The new Canadian law was passed in response to the number of incidents in which children get hit or are nearly hit while walking on and off their school buses. Johnstown school officials said the threat is a familiar one in the area.

"It's usually in the ... high-traffic areas, too. On Scalp Avenue a lot of people just don't know the rules of the road, so they think if a bus is stopped on the right-hand side and they're coming the other way that they're OK to come through but, uh, they're not,” said Miller Motors dispatch supervisor Steve Stull. “They have to stop if there's no median there."

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the penalties of driving around a stopped school bus in Pennsylvania include a $250 fine, five points on your driving record, and a 65-day license suspension.

These are not just isolated instances; there have been several tragic cases of this throughout the U.S. just over the last few months.

In October, a woman killed three young siblings when she drove past a school bus in Indiana. She said she didn't realize it was stopped when she drove around it.

"I think they have to be alert. I mean anytime you see something as big as this coming down the road, you need to be slowing down,” said Nadonley. “At any time whether the lights are on or not. It's just common sense."

We spoke to a few Miller Motor bus drivers who work in the area and they said that, unfortunately, this has become a common occurrence and most of them have experienced it firsthand.

"If it was your kid, you would want the bus to stop. So nine out of 10 those people driving through there are parents themselves and if they really thought about what was going on, I'm sure they would stop,” said Stull.

The bus drivers agreed that having stricter laws like the one in Canada would help ensure that every child gets to school and home safely.

"The safety of the kids is always the No. 1 priority. That's really what we care about the most...the safety of the kids,” Stull said.

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