School bus safety bill increases penalties for failing to stop

By Emily Ketterer
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Sen. Greg Taylor supports the legislation that would increase penalties for motorists who fail to stop for a school bus loading children.

The Indianapolis Democrat said he felt compassion for parents, Shane and Brittany Ingle and Michael Stahl, who lost their children last year because a driver failed to stop for their school bus.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, supported Senate Bill 2, but he criticized lawmakers for not making an effort forth efforts to protect all Indiana parents. Photo by Emily Ketterer, TheStatehouseFile.com

But Taylor said he couldn’t help but think about last session when he brought in La’Kysha Gardner, a mother whose son was nearly beaten to death because of the color of his skin. Then, Taylor was advocating for a hate crime law that would increase punishment for crimes committed because of race, sex and other characteristics of the victim.

He pointed out that it was ironic many of the same senators in the room Wednesday who voted unanimously in support of Senate Bill 2 did nothing to help Gardner, who is black, but now advocate for other parents who experience tragedy.

“This state is a place where everybody deserves to protect their family and be safe, and we’ve got an opportunity today and for the rest of the session,” said Taylor, who signed on to SB 2 as a co-author.

Stahl and Shane Ingle, parents of the three children killed at a bus stop in Rochester, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday to urge the senators to take action on the legislation in honor of their children.

Stahl’s daughter, 9-year-old Alivia Stahl, was crossing a state highway when an oncoming pickup truck failed to stop for the bus and struck her and her twin brothers, Mason and Xzavier Ingle.

“I didn’t get to say goodbye to my daughter,” Stahl said. “I didn’t get to give her a hug, I didn’t get to give her a kiss, she was gone.”

Michael Stahl’s daughter died after she was struck by a car that failed to stop for her school bus. Stahl urged lawmakers in the Senate Judiciary Committee to take action to protect children from the same fate. Photo by Emily Ketterer, TheStatehouseFile.com

Stahl noted that even with laws, there are people who will disobey, but he said those probabilities will be less likely with the penalties listed in SB 2. The penalties in the bill would include a misdemeanor charge, license suspension and then, if the person is a repeat offender, a $20,000 fine. If failing to stop results in death or injury, the charge would be increased to a Level 6 felony.

 “Some people have said the penalties are too high. My daughter’s life was too high. There’s no amount of money that can bring my daughter back,” Stahl said.

The legislation also requires school buses prohibit children from crossing a busy federal or state road unless there is no other safe alternative or if the road is within a city limit where the speed is reduced. A recent amendment added that school corporations can partner with companies to install cameras in the bus stop arms.

In 2018, 201 schools in Indiana reported 3,000 instances where a car failed to stop for a bus in one day, said author of the bill, Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport.

“People don’t think that they’re going to hit a child,” Head said. “If students are dying and giving up their lives for a crime of going to school … they’ve got to get the understanding that this is wrong, that this is unsafe.”

“Imagine being in that position where you saw your children’s eyes, how full of life they are,” Stahl said, “and then to see them hollow and gone because somebody decided to be ruthless and neglect their responsibilities.”

Emily Ketterer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an error. The city where the school bus accident happened is Rochester, Indiana, not Richmond.

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