NATHAN'S LAW (Bus Safety)
On July 1, 2011, Governor Haley Barbour signed legislation into law that increased the penalties for passing a stopped school bus. The legislation was named for Nathan Key, a 5-year-old who was killed when a vehicle illegally passed his school bus as he was unloading. On Dec. 11, 2009, a motorist ignored the flashing red lights and extended stop-arm and struck and killed Nathan after he disembarked his school bus in Laurel, Mississippi. Nathan died just feet from his house as his mother watched in horror. "It's my prayer that something positive will come from such a senseless tragedy," said Lori Key in January 2010. "I hope that Nathan's life and death will serve to inspire safety reforms all across our country."
MS CODE of 1972, Section 63-3-615
In Mississippi, a driver of a vehicle overtaking any school bus that has stopped on the street or highway for the purpose of receiving or discharging any school children shall come to a COMPLETE STOP at least TEN (10) FEET from the school bus before reaching the school bus when there is in operation on the school bus the flashing red lights or when a retractable, hand-operated stop sign is extended; the driver shall not proceed until the children have crossed the street or highway and the school bus has resumed motion or the flashing red lights are no longer actuated and the hand-operated stop sign is retracted.
· Under the law, fines for stop-arm running range from $350 to $750 for a first offense and $750 to $1,500 for a second or subsequent offense, which will also result in a driver's license suspension of 90 days.
· The penalties for illegal passing will also be assessed on the owner of the vehicle regardless if that person was operating the vehicle or not at the time of the citation.
· Nathan’s Law also carries with it a charge of felony assault and a prison sentence of up to 20 years for motorists convicted of illegally passing a school bus that, in the process, results in injury or death.
· It also authorizes cameras to be equipped on school bus stop-arms to film perpetrators in the act.
· It prohibits school bus drivers from using cell phones, wireless communication devices, vehicle navigation systems or "personal digital assistants" while operating the bus, except in an emergency.
· It also requires that every driver's license examination ensures "adequate knowledge on the part of the applicant as to school bus safety requirements”.
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