CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The majority leader in the state Senate is promising quick action from lawmakers on a law change that would let law enforcement officers more easily punish those who fail to stop for school buses as required by law.
“We want to make darn sure with our laws that they have complete authority to utilize that information to save children’s lives. That’s our whole focus,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson, 04) said during an interview with WMOV Radio, a MetroNews affiliate station in Ravenswood.
Last week, transportation officials with the Kanawha County Board of Education released video from a school bus camera that showed two young students and a parent nearly being hit in the Cross Lanes area while trying to cross a road to get to a school bus.
That bus was fully stopped with lights flashing and a stop sign extended, as shown in the video, but drivers of at least two vehicles did not heed the warnings.
Those driving through a bus stop in West Virginia can face fines of between $150 and $500 and also the possibility of jail time for a first offense.
WSAZ Television in Charleston reported that, as the law stands now, capturing a license plate is not enough, though, to hold someone responsible for passing a stopped school bus.
The driver of the vehicle must be clearly identified to pursue criminal charges and that identification is one that cannot be made through plates alone.
School officials in Kanawha County were calling for changes after close calls for students either boarding or exiting school buses at the start of the new school year.
Carmichael said a license plate should be sufficient and he was pledging quick action to make the law fix.
“As a result of this incident, we found another area that we can enhance the protection of our children and we’re going to make every effort to put this in place to ensure that these video cameras that we’ve equipped our school buses, for safety purposes, can also be utilized to apprehend and prevent motorists from passing stopped school buses,” he said.
“We’re going to act on it post-haste.”
The 2016 Regular Legislative Session begins in January.