State lawmakers are looking at a bill that would hike the penalties for passing a school bus as it’s picking up or dropping off kids.
Audrey Napier’s 11-year-old granddaughter Lizzie Robertson-Rutland was run down and died while walking to her school bus in Columbus one early morning in September.
“We don’t want any other family to have to go through what we are dealing with right now," Napier said. "It’s very hard for us. It’s a very emotional time for us. And we support this bill because we want our children to be safe.”
Nine-year-old James Mahlman of Custar near Bowling Green told a Senate committee hearing the bill that in September, he was nearly hit by a truck that kept going, even though the bus had extended its stop sign arm.
“It was not going fast but it did not slow down," Mahlman said. "I stepped back away from the road. If I did not step back, I would have been close enough to touch the vehicle.”
Napier and Mahlman told a Senate committee she supports the bill, known as the School Bus Safety Act, which also has the backing of school groups.
The bill would create the felony of vehicular harm for drivers who hit a child when passing a stopped bus, and double the fines from $500 to $1,000 for passing one. The fine also increases for repeat offenders. The bill also sets aside $500,000 for installation of cameras on school buses over the next two years.
The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, which supports the bill, says 4,200 Ohio drivers were ticketed for passing school buses between 2015 and 2017.