PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — The new school year found district administrators and law enforcement reminding drivers not to pass stopped school buses.
- House Bill 37 filed by State Rep. Ardian Zika
- Pasco County Sheriff's Office sees multiple offenses
- More Pasco County headlines
- SEE ALSO: More Back to School headlines, first day photo gallery
A bill filed by State Rep. Ardian Zika for consideration during next year's legislative session would double penalties for offenders.
"Recently, we have had issues with reckless drivers not stopping for school buses. Sheriff (Chris) Nocco and his team approached me with this idea," said Zika of House Bill 37.
Right now, drivers caught passing school buses while their stop signs are extended could see a fine of $100. Those pulled over for subsequent offenses within five years of the first could have their licenses suspended for 90 days to six months. The bill proposes raising fines to $200 and lengthens possible license suspensions to 180 days to one year.
"I thought it was an important idea for us to go revisit the fines so we can encourage a behavior change when it comes to not stopping for school buses," said Zika.
Currently, the harshest penalties are seen by those who pass buses on the side students enter and exit. The proposed law doubles those fines from $200 to $400. Repeat offenders could see their licenses suspended anywhere from 360 days to two years.
"Last school semester, definitely saw a lot – a lot of people," said Pasco County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Ashley when asked how often he sees vehicles passing buses. "I think I maybe did somewhere around 60, almost 70 school bus stops."
"It's definitely an issue," said Pasco Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Amanda Hunter. "Anytime you have someone who just has no regard for child safety, that"s an issue in our eyes. First and foremost, we"re concerned about safety – especially children. So, anything that can increase the penalty, that makes people reconsider twice about passing one of these school buses is definitely helpful."
Zika said he expects the bill to come up for discussion during committee weeks ahead of the 2020 legislative session. If it ultimately passes and is signed into law, it will take effect next July.