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Senators pass bill to increase penalty for illegally passing school buses

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FILE - Idle Free Heat, which has developed patented technology to recycle heat from a vehicle’s engine to the interior cabin for up to one hour, has been awarded a grant from the Utah Clean Air Partnership to install the system Granite’s school bus fleet.

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SALT LAKE CITY — State senators voted unanimously in favor of a bill Thursday that would increase the penalty of passing a school bus displaying flashing lights.

HB84, which passed without debate, would raise the minimum fine for illegally passing a school bus from $100 to $250 for a first-time offense. It was also amended in the House last week to include a provision that would require an offender to perform community service — a minimum of 10 hours on a first offense and 20 hours on the second.

During last week’s lively House discussion, bill sponsor Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, said his idea for the legislation came to him from a local school district concerned about children’s safety as they moved on and off buses.

“Young kids just aren’t paying attention,” Hall said. “We need to rely on drivers to be aware of their surroundings.”

To illustrate the severity of this point, Hall pointed to a study that found the law was violated more than 900 times in a single day.

“I know it can be frustrating to wait the extra 30 seconds, but we need to remind drivers to stop so we can avoid a potential horrible, fatal thing,“ Hall said.

The Senate added a small tweak to the language Thursday, meaning the bill will go back to the House for final approval before being sent on for Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature.