INDIANAPOLIS — School buses throughout Indiana soon may be equipped with cameras to record motorists who ignore the stop-arm and drive past buses when children are being picked up or dropped off.

Senate Bill 2, which won unanimous committee approval Wednesday, authorizes school corporations and private schools to contract with camera companies to install stop-arm cameras on their school buses.

Images and recordings of stop-arm violations then would be provided to local police to determine who was driving the vehicle and to issue a ticket, if the recording and investigation shows sufficient evidence of the violation.

The legislation imposes significantly higher fines than most traffic infractions: $300 for a first violation; $750 for a second violation within five years; and $1,000 for every subsequent violation within five years.

State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, whose district includes a family with three children who were killed Oct. 30 when a Fulton County motorist drove past a stopped school bus, said he's not concerned that the fines for a camera-recorded violation would be unaffordable for most Hoosiers.

"People have to be more aware of what they're doing," Head said. "If students are dying, and giving up their lives for the crime of trying to go to school, and if somebody is doing this more than once, we've got to get people to understand that this is wrong."

"I think if we started off at $1,000 that would be unreasonable. But starting off lower and then going higher because a person doesn't get it, and keeps committing the same type of transgression and jeopardizing the lives of children, I think is appropriate."

Under the measure, up to 25 percent of the fine, after deducting court costs, could be paid to the camera company. The remainder would be distributed to the school corporation or private school that operates or contracts for the school bus.

The legislation, which next will be considered by the full Senate, also makes it a level 6 felony, instead of a class A misdemeanor, for a motorist who recklessly drives past a stopped school bus and injures a child.

The crime is further is enhanced to a level 5 felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, if a motorist causes death by recklessly passing a stopped school bus.

In addition, school bus drivers on U.S. highways or state routes in rural areas would be prohibited from dropping a student off in a location where the student has to cross the highway, unless no other safe alternatives are available.

School districts and private schools also would be required to annually review bus stop locations and nearby speed limits and to make or seek changes, as necessary, to improve student safety.

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