South Carolina Ponders Bill Intended To Reduce Bus Accident Risks

The father of a 12-year-old South Carolina boy killed in a motor vehicle collision recently spoke to a Senate subcommittee regarding S. 718. The bill, if approved, would allow for the installation of front-facing video cameras on school buses in order to catch drivers who fail to stop when the bus has its lights flashing and its stop arm extended.

The grieving father explained that his young son lost his life when a driver ignored the school bus warning and continued driving. The boy was boarding the bus when the driver struck him at 55 miles per hour, throwing him 100 feet.

His father believes S. 718 would pre-empt similar tragedies in South Carolina. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that an average of 19 school-aged children are killed in collisions annually while using school-provided transportation. Five of the deaths, on average, occur while children are actually on the bus. The remainder happen when children are boarding or disembarking from a vehicle and going toward school or home.

The law currently prohibits drivers from passing stopped buses, but police are not always around to enforce it and deadly crashes continue to occur. A lawyer can help families when a driver passes a stopped bus and causes a collision. It is possible for families to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit to obtain payment for damages, but unfortunately these damages do not bring back children who are lost or good health that was ripped away by a wreck. Some safety advocates argue that S. 718 would prevent these collisions from happening in the first place by making it clear to drivers that they will be caught.

Preventing School Bus Accidents in South Carolina

According to The Augusta Chronicle, there are approximately 101,300 violations of laws related to stopping for school buses in the state of South Carolina every school year. Yet, despite this, only 460 citations were issued to drivers by law enforcement.

When a driver does violate the current law, the action is a crime and the penalties are serious. If the video camera law went into effect, however, the first violation of the law requiring stopping for a school bus would result in a civil penalty and a $100 fine. This is slightly lower than in other states, where a review found that a $250 penalty was a normal amount. The fees generated from citations could be partially used to pay for the cost of installing a camera system.

Although cameras could improve safety, not everyone is in favor. Some have expressed concern about imposing penalties on the basis of photographic evidence, while others argue that the video cameras would create privacy issues. Lawmakers were able to hold up the bill with these concerns, although debate is not over. If the law does get enacted, it is hoped that drivers would think more carefully about breaking the rules and the law could thus save lives.

Drivers already have a legal obligation to stop for a school bus, even if they don’t always follow it. Failure to follow the rules can create a presumption of negligence in an injury or wrongful death claim. If the video camera rule goes forward, soon victims or family members could also have photographic evidence of how an accident happened, making it easier for victims to get compensation when drivers cause school bus collisions.

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