Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley has introduced a bill in Congress that’s designed to toughen penalties for drivers who pass stopped school buses. The bill is meant to mirror “Kadyn’s Law” — a measure signed by Governor Branstad last week which mandates fines of at least $250 and the possibility of jail time of up to 30 days for first time offenders. A second offense within five years would carry a fine of no less than $315 and the possibility of one year behind bars. “This is a huge problem nationwide,” Braley said. “The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services estimates that vehicles illegally pass stopped school buses 13 million times each year.”

Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, noted that current penalties vary widely from state to state. “North Dakota has a very weak law, which is only a $50 fine. States like South Carolina have very tough laws with a fine of not less than $500,” Braley said.

The federal Kadyn’s Law would require states to strengthen their penalties for drivers who pass stopped school buses to the new Iowa standard at a minimum – or face losing federal highway funding. “In the event that a state failed to adopt these standards by October of 2014, they would be at risk of losing up to 10-percent of their highway funding from the federal government,” Braley explained.

The bill passed by Iowa lawmakers was named for Kadyn Halverson, a seven-year-old girl from Kensett who was killed last spring when she was hit by a motorist while crossing a street to board her school bus. The 32-year-old man who hit Kadyn pled guilty to vehicular homicide and has been sentenced to spend 15 years in prison. Kadyn’s mother, Kari, helped lead a lobbying campaign for the stiffer penalties for motorists who pass stopped school buses.

Braley indicated he will likely invite Kari Halverson to testify at a hearing in Washington, D.C. “One of the things that my staff and I know is when you put a human face on these problems, you have a much easier time convincing your colleagues that this is important public policy,” Braley said. An average of 16 children per year are killed by drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.

Kari Halverson released the following statement through Braley’s office: “The fact that Kadyn’s Law is being introduced at a federal level today is beyond amazing to us. As a mother who has lost a child by someone illegally passing by a stopped school bus, I can only hope and pray our leaders at the national level will embrace this act for our children all over the country. I applaud Congressman Bruce Braley for stepping up and taking on an issue that is extremely near and dear to my heart as well as others who have lost children in this way.”