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Republicans seek to increase school bus safety in Tennessee

Republicans last week advanced legislation strengthening punishment for drivers who illegally pass a school bus that is picking up or dropping off children. 

House Bill 818, sponsored by State Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, would make it a Class E felony if a driver illegally passes a school bus and strikes another person. It would be a Class C felony if the individual died.

“In 2019, the General Assembly passed legislation attempting to reduce the number of people illegally passing stopped school busses by allowing schools to install cameras on the outside of busses,” Whitson told the committee Tuesday. “Over the last several years, we have learned about some enforcement challenges due to a lack of clarity within our current statute. This bill provides that clarity and incorporates lessons learned from other states to help us better understand and stop these violators.”

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The legislation would also increase the fine for not stopping for a school bus from $200 to $250 for the first offense based solely on video camera footage from the bus. The minimum fine for a second or subsequent offense would increase from $250 to $500.

In 2022, there were 84 citations issued to drivers who illegally passed a school bus that was either picking up or dropping off children, according to data from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. House Bill 818 is scheduled to be heard in the Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee on March 15.

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