Jones County family pushes for tougher school bus laws - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Jones County family pushes for tougher school bus laws

Lori and Andy Key Lori and Andy Key

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - The parents of a Jones County child killed when the driver attempted to pass a parked school bus appeared in Jackson Monday. They want tougher penalties for those who pass stopped school buses to become law.

A bill moving through the legislature this year may become Nathan's Law, named for Nathan Key, a 5-year-old boy struck and killed as he crossed from a school bus to his home on Houston Road on Dec. 11, 2009.

Clutching her son's school bag, Lori Key stood along side her husband Andy as Lt. Governor Phil Bryant made a rare political promise to the press Monday.

"It is a promise personally that I will do all that I can to make certain this bill moves forward and moves forward quickly," said Bryant. 

Senator Chris McDaniel is the author of Nathan's Law which would create a $500 fine for anyone caught passing a stopped flashing school bus. In addition, the driver's license would be suspended, and he or she could face up to two days in jail.

Repeat offenders would be hit with an $800 fine, license suspension and up to a year behind bars.

If injury results, the crime would automatically become a felony with at least a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in jail.

In addition, the law would prohibit  wireless devices, unless hands free, in a school zone and create a 30-foot buffer zone around a flashing school bus. A task force would also be formed as well as classroom education programs.

"It's time to put some teeth in this law," said McDaniel. "It's time for the legislature to act; it's time for the governor to sign, and it's time to put a good law on the books."

McDaniel introduced a similar bill in 2009, but it never made it out of committee.

"Government is sometimes slow to act," said McDaniel. "Sometimes it takes a tragedy, but something good is going to come out of this."

Senator Billy Hudson is now the co-author of Nathan's Law and said it should have no problem making it to both chambers for a vote.

"In my mind it's going to be a unanimous thing," said Hudson. "I can't imagine anybody being opposed to that."

"No parent should have to experience what we've been through," said Andy Key.

Senator McDaniel expects to have this bill introduced no later than Tuesday afternoon.

 Copyright 2009 WDAM. All rights reserved.

Nathan's Law

1. Creates a 30-foot buffer zone around a stopped school bus with stop-sign extended and lights flashing.

2. Creates a graduated penalty scheme, providing enhanced penalties for subsequent violations.

3. For the first offense, it would update the current law by creating monetary sanctions to $500 for passing a stopped school bus, in addition to providing for license suspension for a period of 30 days and discretionary imprisonment for up to 48 hours.

4. For any subsequent violation, it would increase monetary sanctions to $800 for passing a stopped school bus, in addition to providing for license suspension for a period of 90 days and discretionary imprisonment for up to 1 year.

5. Any conviction for a violation of the statute (even for a first time offender) which results in injury to a child on the school bus will be made a felony, with the violator being fined not less than $5,000 and imprisoned for not more than 5 years.

6. It would prohibit both school bus drivers while driving, and drivers of other motor vehicles in a school zone, from operating wireless communication devices unless with a hands-free accessory.

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