In response to a tragic accident near Rochester, Indiana last fall that resulted in the death of 3siblings, the Indiana Legislature recently passed tougher laws and penalties for drivers thatillegally pass or overtake school buses effective July 1, 2019.
In addition to receiving a ticket for an infraction, Hoosier drivers that violate the Stop-Arm lawscan now be charged with: a class A misdemeanor subject to up to one year in jail and a $5,000fine; a level 6 felony punishable by up to 2.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if their actionsresult in an injury; or, a level 5 felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fineif it causes a death.
As well as stiffer penalties for violations, school districts also have access to additional fundingto install stop-arm cameras to catch violators and law enforcement agencies will respond withsubstantial budgets for increased officer overtime pay this fall.
Multiple studies suggest that drivers don’t fully understand when they are required to stop,resulting in thousands of violations each year. All drivers, traveling in either direction, muststop when traveling on two-lane roadways. Likewise, all drivers, traveling in either direction,must also stop when traveling on multi-lane roadways that are paved across. The onlyexception is when drivers are traveling on a divided highway, where the lanes of travel areseparated by either an unpaved median or a physical barrier. In that situation, vehiclesfollowing the bus must come to a complete stop, while drivers traveling in the oppositedirection separated by the barrier are permitted to proceed with caution.
Much like proceeding through a yellow traffic light, these situations often take place in afraction of a second, perceptions vary and are subject to interpretation.
Given the wide range of penalties, spanning from the payment of a ticket (with thecorresponding impact on your driver’s license and insurance costs) up to potential prisonsentences, it is critical that drivers charged with Stop-Arm violations consult with anexperienced criminal defense attorney to protect their rights.