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Indiana General Assembly working on school bus safety, Yorktown Schools advise caution


YORKTOWN, Ind. (NewsLink) -- Five days a week, Delaware County drivers see children boarding or getting off school buses with their stop-arms extended. After the deaths of three children in Fulton County in 2018, the Indiana General Assembly is proposing new school bus safety legislation. 

The General Assembly is considering increasing the penalties for drivers who are caught not stopping for the bus. The current law states that if a driver chooses to run the stop-arm, it is a Class B misdemeanor, which carries 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. 

The bills are stipulating that the penalty should be increased to a Class A misdemeanor, which includes a year in jail and a fine of $5,000. The General Assembly has also proposed to make the penalty of hurting a child to a level 6 felony. This charge can include up to two-and-a-half years with a fine of $10,000.

This issue has been brought up in prior years and the General Assembly hasn’t been able to combine bills and pass them, said Yorktown Community Schools Transportation Director Renda Plummer.

“I think our drivers are very protective of our students on their buses,” said Plummer. “We have had phone calls just this week of drivers who waited because kids were coming to the bus and fall on the ice, who had to change coats because they’re all wet.”

Yorktown Community Schools Superintendent Greg Hinshaw said that safety is paramount when their bus drivers are on the road. 

“There is that emphasis on just making absolutely sure that your student is safe getting on the bus and off the bus, and so they take that job very seriously,” Hinshaw said. 

Hinshaw said that he feels that the increase in penalties are needed. 

“Drivers just need to assume if you’re seeing a school bus, especially during pick-up and drop-off times, there are going to be children who are pedestrians in the vicinity of that bus,” Hinshaw said. 

Hinshaw asks drivers to treat the situation with a stopped bus with extra caution and not to try to pass the bus in a rush to get where they’re going. 

The main roads that Yorktown Schools have seen stop-arm violations are four-lane roads and turn lanes. 

Plummer said that the lack of knowledge is one thing to blame. However, Plummer feels drivers just aren’t as careful anymore.  

“I think that everybody is in a hurry,” said Plummer. “I think we’ve lost some compassion for one another.” 

Yorktown Schools do have stop-arm cameras that will catch the license plate. 

NewsLink Indiana will continue to follow this story.