Raleigh, N.C. — Drivers who pass a stopped school bus would automatically lose their licenses for at least 30 days and up to two years under a bill that cleared the Senate Judiciary 2 Committee Thursday morning.
It is already illegal to pass a stopped school bus that has its stop-arm out. However, drivers who commit such a violation under current law aren't automatically suspended.
An earlier version of the bill would have required a six-month suspension for first-time offenders who didn't hurt anyone. The version of the bill that passed committee dropped that to 30 days for a first offense if nobody was hit.
Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said it was appropriate to give first-time offenders a break.
"After that first mistake, they ought to learn the lesson," McKissick said.
The bill requires a year-long suspension if the driver hits somebody and a two-year-long suspension if the person hit dies as a result.
As the committee was hearing the bill, the State Highway Patrol reported that a child was hit in Nash County when a driver passed a stopped school bus on N.C. Highway 58 in Castalia.
Committee members discussed other measures the state may need to make school buses safer, including equipping them with cameras to catch violators and posting signs on the back that tell drivers they could lose their licenses for passing a stopped bus.