A bill authored by State Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport) that addresses school bus safety issues in Indiana passed the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code Wednesday by a vote of 9 to 3.

According to a news release from Head’s office, Senate Bill 2 would increase the penalties for drivers who violate school bus stop laws, including making a violation that results in death a level 5 felony and automatically suspending the driving privileges of those who violate school bus stop laws; allow schools the ability to use stop-arm cameras; require schools to minimize bus stops that make children cross highways in high-speed areas; and increase public awareness about Indiana’s school bus laws.

Twins Xzavier and Mason Ingle, 6, and their sister, Alivia Stahl, 9, were killed when they were hit by a pickup as they were getting on the school bus Oct. 30 at a mobile home park on Ind. 25 in Fulton County. Alyssa Shepherd, 24, of rural Rochester, was driving the pickup.

Winamac Middle School student Marshall Owen Abbott, 13, died Dec. 5 when the Eastern Pulaski Community Schools bus he was on was hit by a truck on U.S. 31, just north of Argos.

“In 2018, four children lost their lives in accidents involving school buses in our area, causing the families and our entire community great pain,” Head said. “The lives of Hoosier children are sacred, and everyone needs to make sure they are paying attention to their surroundings when on the road. I am hopeful this legislation, if passed, would help prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future.”

SB 2 would also require each school corporation, charter school or accredited nonpublic school that provides student transportation to review their school bus routes and safety policies annually.

SB 2 will move to the full House for consideration.

Shane and Brittany Ingle, parents of Alivia Stahl and Xzavier and Mason Ingle, released a statement Wednesday on SB 2.

In part, it states, “Shane and I are extremely pleased that today the House Committee chose to pass the Senate Bill #2 (The Maxstrong Bill) and it will now move to the full house for a vote probably next week.

“We are aware and respect that there was some resistance to certain things in the bill and we hope that we can bring all sides together to come to with an agreement that will get everyone on board and we can get this important bill passed to help save children's lives. We know that the ‘no’ votes are more to do with language and that all members of the committee are focused on how we can all improve children's safety, that has to be priority No. 1. But it's important for all legislators to remember, every ‘no’ vote means a greater risk of having more tragedy like the horrible tragedy our family is trying to come to grips with and not finding a way to bring the greatly needed change would only keep all children at risk across Indiana.”

They suggest everyone help get this bill through the final steps. “Call, write, visit  your legislators and tell them to vote yes that we need to pass this bill for the safety of all children” they say.