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Maryland lawmakers working to maintain $250 penalty for drivers who pass stopped school buses

WASHINGTON — A video that showed a student getting hit by a driver who blew past a stopped school bus drew horrified gasps from Maryland lawmakers in a hearing Thursday afternoon.

Democratic Del. Lesley Lopez, who represents Montgomery County, was testifying on House Bill 343, which deals with penalties for drivers who pass stopped school buses on Maryland roadways.

Lopez explained that the video, supplied by Montgomery County police, had been included as part of the testimony on the bill.

Chair of the Transportation and Environment Committee, Kumar Barve asked Lopez about the video before playing it. She suggested it would have more power than her description of the event. “I think the impact of the video speaks for itself,” she said.

After Barve was told that the girl in the video eventually recovered from her injuries, he allowed the video to be played. But that was only after telling other lawmakers and witnesses in the hearing room that he would give them time to leave if they thought viewing the footage would be too disturbing.

After the shocked reaction from lawmakers and witnesses in the room, Barve said, “This is why I think the fine should be $1,000. That’s the reason I wanted to show this video.”

The law under consideration is due to expire or “sunset” on June 30, 2019. Lopez has proposed doing away with the sunset provision, and keeping the current $250 fine in effect.

Lopez said originally, the fine for passing a stopped school bus was $125 dollars, but that was found to be ineffective. Drivers are given a $250 fine if recorded passing a bus by the onboard camera. If they’re caught by police, the fine can be greater than $500.

In 2017, the Maryland General Assembly voted to boost the fine to $250 and since then, Lopez said, the number of violations declined. “According to data provided by the district court, related citations from across the state have dropped some 15 percent since this new fine was put in place.”

A twin bill is being heard in a Maryland Senate committee.

 

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