EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) to ensure the safety of children being transported to school while also creating new traffic rules and stricter penalties.

“Violators of school traffic laws are fundamentally guilty of one of two offenses; aggressive or distracted driving. Neither is defensible nor acceptable. Deaths and injuries are entirely preventable,” said Baker.   

Senate Bill 897 or the “Baker Bill” extends the stopping distance requirement to 15 feet before reaching a school bus when the red signal lights are flashing and the side stop signal arm is activated. 

“Pennsylvania is one of only a few states with a mere 10-foot stopping distance. Creating this extra buffer gives students more space to safely walk around the stopped bus and sends a message to motorists that this safety zone cannot be ignored,” Baker added.    

For the first time, the revised laws would include specific penalties for drivers who fail to proceed with caution or those who don’t stop when a school bus has engaged its flashing stop lights.     

The bill also creates increased penalties for repeat offenders of the school bus-stopping law.

According to PennDOT if a driver is convicted of a secondary offense, violators would be subject to the same driver’s license suspension and accumulation of points, plus an increased fine and completion of either a driver improvement school or examination testing. 

“As we observe National School Bus Safety Week, we are reminded there are too many reports of drivers ignoring the traffic safety laws regarding school zones and buses. This measure is directed toward reversing this trend and providing for greater public safety,” Baker continued.

The bill will now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.