MAXSTRONG to concentrate on toughening laws

By Joseph Slacian

With the trial of Alyssa Shepherd completed, officials at the MAXSTRONG Foundation will turn attention to fighting to continue strengthening the state’s school bus stop laws.

The Foundation – named for twin brothers Mason and Xavier Ingle and their older sister, Alivia Stahl – is dedicated to improving safety for all children that ride buses around Indiana. The three siblings were killed and a fourth, Maverik Lowe, was critically injured, on Oct. 30, 2018, after being struck by Shepherd’s vehicle as they were crossing State Road 25 to board the school bus.

Shepherd was found guilty in Fulton County Superior Court of three counts of felony reckless homicide, as well as one count of criminal recklessness and one count of driving around a school bus with the stop arm extended. Sentencing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Dec. 18.

During the last legislative session, Foundation officials worked with legislators to develop a tougher law for drivers who go around school buses when they are loading and unloading school children.

The new law went into effect on July 1. Under the measure, it requires same-side pickups and drop offs of children to prevent them from having to cross busy roads or highways to get on or off buses. It also increases penalties for violators who ignore a stopped bus.

However, MAXSTRONG officials don’t believe the measure goes far enough, and they plan to work with lawmakers to add more teeth to the law.

“We’re going to touch on legislation again,” said Brittany Ingle, mother of the three children. “We want to go back for the automatic suspension (of a driver’s license), because that didn’t quite work for us the first time.”

Ingle’s father, Mike Schwab, said the Foundation will work to require violators to go to victim impact groups to see the effect they have on others.

In addition, he said, it will be pushing to require violators to do community service work in a trauma center “so they can firsthand see what their reckless acts do to other people’s lives.”

“There’s still some real good areas to put into the law and tighten up some of the penalties to make sure people don’t just get to walk away,” Schwab said.

The situation also is drawing the attention of federal lawmakers.

U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski and Julia Brownley and U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Gary Peters have sponsored the STOP for School Buses Act in Congress.

The STOP for School Buses Act would direct a comprehensive, nationwide review of efforts to prevent illegal passing of buses. Under the bill, USDOT would:

Compile illegal passing laws in all states, including levels of enforcement and penalties.

Review existing public safety measures and programs to prevent illegal passing of school buses.

Issue recommendations on best practices for preventing illegal passing.

Evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies that may help prevent illegal passing incidents.

Review driver education materials in all states to determine whether more information about illegal passing should be provided to drivers.

Research connections between illegal passing of school buses and other safety issues.

Create and execute a public safety messaging campaign to promote safe driving when children are present and highlight the dangers of illegal passing.

Last week, the lawmakers witnessed a demonstration of technology aimed at preventing illegal passing of stopped school buses.

“Every driver shares the roads with school buses, and we all have a role to play in keeping kids safe,” said Walorski, a Republican who represents Wabash County in Indiana’s 2nd District. “Today’s event was an important opportunity to learn more about innovative technologies that can help prevent drivers from illegally passing school buses and to discuss our bipartisan efforts in Congress to ensure students are safe on their way to and from school. The STOP for School Buses Act will help states and local communities take the most effective actions to prevent tragedies and save lives.”

“Next Wednesday will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragic deaths of three young Hoosiers in a bus-related crash in Fulton County, Indiana. We cannot accept accidents like this as routine,” said Young, R-Indiana. “Today was an opportunity to raise support for the Stop for School Buses Act and spread awareness for the much-needed review of existing safety laws surrounding our school buses.”

“As a mom and a former school board member, ensuring our children get safely to and from school every day is an issue that is near and dear to my heart,” said Brownley, D-California. “We need to do more to educate drivers and to assess new technologies that can prevent illegal school bus passing. Kids’ lives depend on it.”

“No parent should ever have to worry about their child being injured or even losing their life while waiting for or boarding their school bus,” said Peters, D-Michigan. “We’ve seen a growing number of incidents that pose a risk to the safety of our students and we must take action. It’s time for the Senate to pass the STOP for School Buses Act. I am hopeful that new technologies combined with a comprehensive review of best school bus safety practices will help dramatically reduce these tragic accidents.”

Posted on 2019 Oct 29