Governor Terry Branstad says he supports an effort to toughen the state’s school bus safety laws.
A group that includes the mother of a northern Iowa girl who was hit and killed as tried to board her school bus has been lobbying legislators to pass a bill on the subject this year.
“First of all, I give them real credit for their actively contacting legislators and we promise to support the legislation to have stronger penalties and being able to move more quickly on revoking a driver’s license,” Branstad says.
Seven-year-old Kadyn Halverson of Kensett was killed last May by a hit-and-run driver who has pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide. Branstad calls it a tragic case.
“This was a person that had a suspended license, that hit this little girl when the school bus was stopped and the arm was out and the lights were flashing,” Branstad says.
The governor says he was surprised to hear how many of these types of accidents happen and he wants to make sure that Iowa’s law is effective. Branstad has asked the Departments of Public Safety, Education and Transportation to work with lawmakers to craft a bill on the topic.
The girl’s family and friends are asking legislators to increase the penalty for motorists who drive by a stopped school bus that has its lights flashing and the stop-arm extended. The group also wants video cameras mounted in school buses to record violations.
About a dozen people, including Kadyn Halverson’s mother and her lobbying partners, wore pink t-shirts to the statehouse day after day this month as they met face-to-face with legislators. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says it’s an example of how citizens can make a difference.
“They’ve really put a lot of work into it and done a lot of research, too,” Reynolds says. “And it was very evident when they met with us, just the amount of material they had and the research they put together and they’re delivering that to most legislators as well as our office.”
The pink binders the group is handing to lawmakers has a picture of Kadyn Halverson on the front. She’s standing in front of her school bus with her back-pack in the photo.
(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KGLO, Mason City)