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12/27/2018 6:29:00 PM
Logansport state senator plans bill on school bus safety following recent tragedies

Mitchell Kirk, Pharos-Tribune Staff Writer

Three students were killed and one was injured after being struck by a vehicle as they crossed Ind. 25 in Fulton County to board their school bus in October.

Just over a month later, a student was killed when the school bus he was in was rear-ended by a truck in Marshall County.

Both tragedies occurred in Indiana Senate District 18, represented by State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport. 

"I want to do everything I can to keep anyone from having to go through this," Head said.

He intends to file a bill to improve school bus safety during the Indiana General Assembly's next legislative session, which starts next month.

Head has a preliminary draft of that bill. He doesn't want students to have to cross state highways to get to their school buses. He wants school districts to be allowed to petition to reduce speed limits near bus stops. He wants increased penalties for traffic law violations resulting in death.

"The utter horror of hearing what happened in Fulton County," he said of his motivation to pursue the legislation. "...Sadly it's one of many tragedies we've endured in the local area involving children."

Head added that he visited the neighborhood Fulton County's tragedy occurred in and spoke with parents of the children killed, all of whom were siblings.

"I'm really amazed by the strength of the parents of those children," he said. "I think it's impossible to describe the loss of just one child but they lost three instantaneously and they want to move forward and do something to prevent other families from enduring that same loss and my hat's off to them."

He emphasized he expects his bill will be amended at least once throughout the upcoming session.

Head welcomes ideas from the public on what to include in the bill. He can be contacted at s18@iga.in.gov or his Senate office at 317-232-9488.

Cass County Highway Superintendent Jeff Smith called Head's plan a good idea and said he thinks a lot of Indiana school districts already take it upon themselves to implement similar safety standards.

"But it wouldn't be a bad idea to have it uniform across the state," Smith said.

The proposal to require same-side pickups on state highways got Smith thinking about Cass County roads that are not state highways but are often treated as such, like Logansport Road, 600 East and Old Ind. 25. He thinks the bill should address bus stops on busier, high-speed thoroughfares like those as well. 

Smith cautioned that allowing school districts to petition for lower speed limits near bus stops may create difficulties. Bus stops can move frequently, he continued, adding speed limit signs have to be approved by county commissioners.

"I could just see that turning into a whole lot of red tape if these requests change from year to year," Smith said.

Different speed limits across short stretches of road would be difficult to enforce, Smith went on to say, and could even result in more danger by requiring drivers to slow down before speeding up again.

Smith also said the highway department works with Cass County school corporations to erect signs instructing drivers to be aware of school buses and school bus stops.

He thinks increased penalties for drivers passing school buses' stop arms would be worthwhile too.

"I do applaud the lawmakers for looking at this after the tragedy we had in this area," he said. "I think it's appropriate they do anything they can do to make things safer."

Related Stories:
• Hoosier school superintendents says drivers still go through blinking red school bus lights
• Lawmakers eye tougher distracted driving penalties following fatal school bus crash

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