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Illinois debates getting tougher on drivers passing school buses

If you’re a parent, you might have nasty visions some mornings as your child climbs the stairs to board a school bus. The evening news the previous night can be awfully vivid about bus crashes and accidents at bus stops.

As a result, you might be surprised to know that a bill working its way through Illinois’ legislature is proving to be controversial.

The bill would stiffen fines paid by drivers who are caught passing a stopped school bus.

School buses are safe and efficient, NTSA says

Your child is 70 times safer commuting to school by bus than they would be if you drove them by car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It would also take 17 million more cars on the road to drive all our kids to school and, presumably, the evening news would have a lot more tragedies to cover.

Incidentally, the NHTSA’s website tips not everyone thinks of (get to the bus stop five minutes early) and ones you’d hope everyone already knows (drivers, slow down).

The state may double fines for passing school buses

Currently, for a first offense, you could be fined $150 in Illinois for passing a school bus that’s stopped to pick up or drop off students.

But in March, the Illinois House passed Bill 1873, which would double that fine.

Some may be surprised to hear the bill has been hotly debated, especially when you think about what else costs $150 and compare its value to that of a child’s life.

But some lawmakers have pointed out that those unable to pay the doubled fine could lose their license, which can cause lives to unravel and do much more harm to families than any fine. A public education campaign should at least be part of the bill, they argue.

Others suggest a $300 fine is education enough, and that Illinois’ penalties are mild compared to states like Minnesota, where a first offense can mean $500 and 90 days behind bars.

As of this writing, the measure is now under consideration by the Illinois Senate.

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