A new Canadian law now issues a much harsher penalty for drivers who illegally pass a school bus and put innocent children in danger. That momentary lapse in judgement and decision making to pass the bus willfully will now result in the driver losing his or her driver’s license, along with other penalties.

This new law was passed in the Prince Edward Canadian province and will go into effect on December 8, 2018. Any driver who is caught illegally passing a school bus will have their license revoked for a period of three months and could face a fine of $5,000. If the driver wishes to get his or her license back, they must first pay a $100 reinstatement fee, take a defensive driving course within six months and meet with highway safety officials. After taking these steps, the driver will still be on probation for a one-year period.

This new Canadian law has those of us in the U.S. asking if a similar law should be passed to protect our children riding school buses every day. With the recent deaths at school bus stops across the country, many have asked the question of what can be done to stop drivers from illegally passing stopped school buses?

One of the most recent incidents occurred here in Florida. Seven individuals were rushed to the hospital after a vehicle struck students at a Tampa school bus stop. Witnesses who saw the scene unfold say that a Ford Escort was seen driving at a high rate of speed, hitting several pedestrians who were standing at the side of the road, waiting for the bus. Media images taken from the accident were chilling, showing backpacks strewn along the road, flung off the children who were struck by the vehicle. Five children and two adults were hurt. One child is still reported as being in critical condition. The 47-year-old man who was driving the car has not yet been charged. Fortunately, there were no lives lost this time.

The incident was the fifth bus stop accident that occurred in a three-day span. Other accidents have occurred in Indiana and Mississippi. The Tampa accident occurred only days after three children were killed in Indiana after a female driver failed to even slow down for a bus that had its emergency lights on and stop sign extended as children were crossing a two-lane highway to board the bus. The driver killed a 9-year-old girl and her twin six-year-old brothers. The girl was said to have been attempting to shield her brothers when the car struck them. Another child was hit and was airlifted to a nearby hospital. The driver was charged with three counts of felony reckless homicide, but she has since been released on bail.

These tragedies clearly point to the fact that something needs to change. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2006 and 2015, 1,313 people were killed in school transportation-related accidents. While most of the victims were passengers in other vehicles, 102 of the victims were school-age children who were pedestrians.

All drivers are taught during driver’s education the laws that govern when it is safe to pass a school bus and when it is required that the driver stop. Florida law Section 316.172 requires that any person driving a car or truck must stop when approaching a school bus with a displayed stop sign and warning light. One cannot drive past a stopped school bus until the stop sign has been completely withdrawn. Violating this law is considered a moving violation. Passing on the side that the children while the stop signals, and lights are flashing requires a mandatory hearing in front of a traffic court magistrate pursuant to Florida Statute 318.19. The amount of a traffic ticket in Florida for passing a school bus depends upon whether the driver passed on the right or left side and if it was their first offense as well as if it is the first offense or not.

Despite this fact, many drivers either fail to know how to react or react with total disregard for the law. On two-way streets, if a school bus has its arm extended with emergency lights, all drivers going in either direction must stop. If the cars are traveling on a highway with a paved median, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for the bus if the stop signal has been extended and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the school bus’s stop sign has been withdrawn. When in doubt, it is always best to proceed with extreme caution. Reduce your speed significantly whenever children are present and stop if you have any questions about whether you should stop traveling near a stopped school bus. We offer some safe driving tips to remember in school zones and around school buses.

If you have a child who has suffered an injury due to the negligence of someone else please do not hesitate contact our firm and speak with an experienced Miami child injury attorney toll free 1-866-597-4529, local 305-441-0440, or by email. We offer a free initial consultation at your home, office, hotel or hospital. Call us today, we are ready to help.