With Rampant Illegal School Bus Blowbys – Legislation Advances to Catch Lawbreakers

Legislation to help improve traffic safety near school buses was unanimously passed out of the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee Monday.

Sponsored by Representative Mike McKell (Republican – Spanish Fork), HB 235-Automated Traffic Enforcement Safety Devices authorizes the use of automated traffic enforcement safety devices on school buses to help capture photographic or video images of possible traffic law violations and participating in the program is optional. Under the legislation, 20 percent of the fines (which range from $100 to $500) collected would be given to the school district or private school that owns or contracts for the operation of the bus to help offset the cost of a camera.

Newly-licensed driver Reed Heywood, a 16-year-old sophomore at Spanish Fork High School, told lawmakers about the many times he has seen people not stop like they are supposed to for school buses. Unsure of whether or not that is illegal, he checked his driver’s license manual and confirmed that it isn’t permissible under the law.

According to Herb Jensen, director of transportation for the Jordan School District, who was testifying on behalf of transportation directors across the state, the current law is difficult to enforce and schoolchildren are in peril as a result.  He pointed to a recent study that was conducted on November 19, 2016 in 28 of Utah’s 41 school districts to observe the number of traffic violations in the vicinity of school buses. During that single day, there were 1,468 illegal school bus passings. What’s truly frightening, Jensen said, is that three of those violations occurred on the loading side of the school bus.

Senator Wayne Harper (Republican – Taylorsville) worried about the camera being too intrusive. “There’s a balance here between safety, which is really critical, but I almost see this as going back. We fought hard to get rid of Photocop because of its abusiveness. It almost feels like we’re doing the first step in the door towards that. So I’m a little bit torn,” said Harper.

“In no way are we trying to do Photocop. We’re not going to send an instant ticket,” responded McKell. Instead, bus drivers would be able to capture license plate numbers from the camera and make a report to the school district transportation coordinator within two business days after the incident.

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