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What’s a fair price for the safety of our youth?

By The Editorial Board

The Sto-Rox School District is entering into an agreement with BusPatrol to install recording equipment on buses which will catch drivers violating the Bus-Arm law.

That’s the law which states someone must stop when a bus has its lights flashing and its stop sign extended.

Hopefully the increased surveillance will deter drivers from breaking the law.

At the Oct. 20 Sto-Rox School Board meeting where school directors adopted the new policy, Treasurer Lucille Young asked if anyone besides her thought the fine for endangering the lives of school children was too low.

Right now the fine is between $250 to $300.

The editorial board sides with Young on this one–it’s a shockingly low fine for trying to whip around a bus with its stop sign out, at a time when students are obviously embarking or disembarking the vehicle.

The cost for an ambulance ride with advanced lifesaving techniques in Allegheny County is between $1,200 and $1,300.

A $300 fine is not even a quarter of that cost.

That’s kind of unsettling, don’t you think?

As reported by the National Safety Council, during the 2018-19 school year an estimated 479,867 yellow school buses provide transportation service daily in the United States. The report also stated nearly 23 million elementary and secondary school children ride school buses to and from school each day. Bus crashes killed more than 100 people in 2019, according to the National Safety Council. That’s relatively safe, but when it comes to our kids, that sounds chilling.

This year, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services conducted a study of drivers illegally passing buses. The study notes that throughout a 180-day school year, there are estimated to be more than 41.8 million violations.

According to BusPatrol, the company installing software on buses to catch these types of violations, there have been more than 100 in the Pittsburgh area the past few weeks. Sto-Rox officials said some of their crossing guards had faced injuries through the years because of people ignoring the stop sign.

We have learned through the years that drinking and driving is dangerous and the law has adapted accordingly. At least with drunk drivers, they may be plagued with addiction issues. That doesn’t exonerate them under the law, nor should it, but it begs the question–what excuse does the person who recklessly swerves around a stopped school bus have?

Did they have to catch the deals at the dollar store before it was too late? Trust us, there’s one every five feet in this area–the savings will wait. It’s certainly not worth hurting a child who just wants to learn.

No one needs to wake up in the morning without their child because someone else was running behind on their morning commute.

If you’re caught speeding in a school zone, three points are added to your license. People convicted of flouting the law and driving around a bus with its stop sign extended get five points on their licenses and could even face a 65 day suspension of their license. The Pennsylvania General Assembly seems to recognize the severity of the violation in that regard, but the fine doesn’t keep pace.

According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, “for each additional $1 in fines, seat belt use increases by 0.15 percentage points.”

Increased fines have shown a correlation with greater compliance with the law.

The minimum fine for drunk driving in Pennsylvania starts at $1,000 and tops out at $5,000.

In our humble opinion, we think that a pricier penalty should be enforced for a bus arm violation–maybe not a whopping $5,000, but tripling the fine to $900 seems modest given the stakes. There’s just no excuse for a driver to ever ignore the flashing lights and stop sign on a school bus. The risk of injuring or worse, killing a child, is just too great.

We would like to see our representatives lobby for a higher penalty associated with bus arm violations. Increasing the fine could reduce many of these incidents, which seem to be rampant. The majority of the fine money–$250– goes to fund the school district and by increasing the fine, more funding would find its way into classrooms. Amping up the cost of a violation would be helping to improve the welfare and safety of kids in multiple ways.

Increasing the fine is an easy way for them to show a commitment to children and education.

Hopefully, our recently-elected lawmakers will hear the call and put a little more value on safety.

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