Iowa school bus safety laws prompt national legislation - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa school bus safety laws prompt national legislation

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Students leave Dubuque's Roosevelt Middle School for the day Monday afternoon and head to the buses Students leave Dubuque's Roosevelt Middle School for the day Monday afternoon and head to the buses
DUBUQUE (KWWL) - School bus safety laws here in Iowa may pave the way for similar legislation on the national level.

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) proposed the School Bus Safety Act earlier this month. The act aims to make riding a school bus safer for every public school student.

On Monday afternoon, Dubuque Community School District superintendent Stan Rheingans spoke with Braley outside George Washington Carver Elementary School, promoting the School Bus Safety Act.

One provision of the act would enact tougher penalties for drivers who unlawfully pass the school bus stop arm.

"Students die every year because people violate (the) stop arm-- not in our district, thank God, knock on wood, but, nationally, there are young people who die," Rheingans said, "because you can't see around a school bus, and a young person comes out in front of that bus and tragedies happen."

That provision of the act is called Kadyn's Law, just like the existing law in Iowa. Kadyn was a seven-year-old Iowa girl hit and killed three years ago by a vehicle when the driver ignored the school bus stop arm.

Another part of the act would require background checks on all school bus drivers, which is already a law in Iowa.

Rheingans said the Dubuque Community School District has been practicing that for more than a decade and it has helped officials weed out certain job applicants.

"It can be as simple as driving while impaired, those types of issues, or it can be something a little bit more concerning as far as actions with students, that sort of thing," Rheingans said. "It's obviously a good thing to do background checks with anybody who has contact with our kids, because their safety is our utmost concern."

Another part of the five-part act would create a grant program for motion-activated detection systems on buses, so drivers don't accidentally hit a child that may be crossing in front of or behind the bus, out of the driver's line of sight.

The fourth part would allow for states to apply for funding for school bus seat belts.

Finally, the School Bus Safety Act would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to study the use of technology to get drivers to stop for school buses.

"The bill has a self-funding mechanism," a press release from Braley's office states. "Two of the programs – Kadyn’s Act (Title I) and Bus Driver Background Checks (Title III) require states to implement standards similar to Iowa’s or they lose 10 percent of their highway funds. The other two programs in the bill, the motion sensors and seat belts, are grant programs funded by the withheld funds from those states that fail to implement Kadyn’s Law and bus driver background checks."

Laurie Vonah's daughter is an eighth grader at Dubuque's Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School. While Vonah's daughter doesn't take the school bus, because her family lives less than two miles from school and those students don't qualify for bus service, Vonah still believes school bus safety should be a top priority for schools and drivers alike.

"I think it's very important that people follow the rules around the bus," Vonah said. "I see sometimes people passing school buses that are stopped."

To read the entire proposed School Bus Safety Act, click HERE:
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