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Florida bill would increase fines, penalties for drivers who illegally pass school buses

Posted at 7:15 PM, Sep 17, 2019

JUPITER - Outside Jupiter Elementary moms weighed in on a bill which, if passed, would double fines and penalties for drivers across the state of Florida, if they are caught illegally passing a school bus.

“More penalties for people passing buses? Absolutely. I would feel much safer,” said one mom. “Anything that keep our kids safe,” said another.

“As a driver, you need to be responsible,” said a third mother, waiting to pick up her child. “A deterrent, maybe it will save lives.”

RELATED: Survey: More than 10,000 Florida drivers illegally pass school buses each day

The bill, proposed by State Sen. Ed Hooper (R - Palm Harbor), would increase the fine from $100 to $200 for drivers who fails to stop for a school bus, and increase the fine from $200 to $400 for a driver who illegally passes a school bus.

Drivers who commit second offenses within a five-year period could also lose their license for a longer period of time, if the bill is passed.

Contact 5 has been following this issue. Back in April, Contact 5 investigator Wanda Moore talked to Martin County school bus driver Ronnie Basilico. He’s spent more than 20 years driving kids to and from school.

“If they are going through the red when someone’s crossing, someone could get killed,” said Basilico. “It is a regular problem. It happens a lot, more than you think. It is a matter of time before someone gets hit by a car. It’s a matter of time.”

A survey by the Florida Dept. of Education shows more than 10,000 drivers illegally pass buses each day across the state of Florida.

Despite current laws in place, videos of drivers illegally passing buses continue to pour in. The most recent viral video comes out of Texas, and shows a 5-year-old girl nearly hit by a driver when she was getting off the bus.

“He put my daughter’s life in danger,” said the girl’s mother, Josephine Kirk-Taylor. “No telling how many other children he’s done this to before.”

Right now, in order to write a ticket to a driver passing a school bus illegally, an officer has to physically catch the driver in the act.

Last month State Rep. Ardian Zika (R – Pasco County) filed an identical bill to double fines and penalties for drivers. Both bills have yet to make a move through either chamber.

Click here for more on school bus safety including bus safety tips for drivers.