Days after introducing the most significant overhaul of school bus safety since the 1990s, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today visited Lincoln Intermediate School in Mason City to discuss the issue with school officials, including Mason City Schools Superintendent Anita Micich.
Braley was also joined by Kristen Meyer, the aunt of Northwood student Kadyn Halverson, who was killed when a motorist illegally sped past a stopped school bus.
“Kadyn’s family has taken a true leadership role in school bus safety—and their advocacy has and will continue to save lives,” Braley said. “Any parent who has watched their children board a bus knows the feeling of wanting to use every tool possible to ensure their safety, and that’s why I introduced a plan to move us forward.”
Braley is visiting Iowa schools this week in an effort to speak to local experts, and see what resources are being used in Iowa to improve and maintain school bus safety.
The School Bus Safety Act, which Braley introduced in the U.S. House last week, contains five titles:
- Title I: “Kadyn’s Act”—named after Northwood student Kadyn Halverson, requires states to enact tough penalties for drivers who pass stopped schools buses. Kadyn’s parents helped enact this portion of the law in Iowa, but in many other states, this activity, which puts children’s lives in danger, is punishable by fines as low as 30 dollars.
- Title II creates grants for Motion Activated Detection Systems on the exterior of buses—these systems alert a driver when a moving target is detected within the danger zones near the front, rear and sides of the bus.
- Title III requires background checks on school bus drivers. In 2012, Iowa enacted such a law, but some states are still operating without this requirement.
- Title IV is a School Bus Seat Belt Demonstration Program. The Department of Transportation would create a Demonstration Program which would allow states to apply for funding to purchase new school buses with seat belts or to equip current ones with seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that deaths from frontal crashes could be significantly reduced with mandatory seatbelt use.
- The last portion of the law would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to assess using technology to get drivers to stop for school buses. For example, studying how a particular lighting system might help prevent motorists from illegally passing stopped buses. This could also help with the situation that led to Kadyn Halverson’s tragedy – utilizing technology that can get people to slow down and stop, in addition to increased penalties.
The bill has a self-funding mechanism. Two of the programs – Kadyn’s Act (Tile 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 seatbelts, are grant programs funded by the withheld funds from those states that fail to implementKadyn’s Law and bus driver background checks.
Braley has a long history of advocacy on school bus safety, including previously fighting to redirect resources to help states enforce traffic laws that punish reckless drivers for illegally passing stopped school buses. Braley was also a strong supporter of the passing of Kadyn’s Law by the Iowa legislature.