New transportation laws crack down on 'move over' violations

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Iowa Department of Transportation passed a series of laws on Sunday that will heighten the penalties for certain traffic violations.

Included in the changes is the "move over" law, which requires drivers to change lanes when passing emergency or other authorized vehicles. This law also helps to enforce the penalties when drivers pass a stopped school bus with its arm out and its red lights flashing.

Previously, the penalty was a fine of $200. Now, however, violators can face a fine of between $250 and $675, and/or up to 30 days in jail.

And the penalties increase with the offenses. Following offenses can increase the fine to up to $1,875. A violation that causes an injury or a death could result in additional fines, a suspended license, or even jail time.

This law, specifically when involving a stopped school bus, is a result of "Kadyn's Law," named after the 7-year-old girl who was killed last year in Northwood, Iowa, from a driver who failed to stop for a school bus.

According to Kadyn's Law, a case of vehicular homicide where no substances were involved will result in at least 15 years in prison. A similar situation with substances involved will result in a 25-year minimum sentence.

Randy Krukow, Clay County sheriff, believes that these added laws will help to focus the attention of drivers toward the emergency vehicles and school buses.

"It's in the awareness," Krukow said. "This will definitely get their attention more."

Krukow also noted that the recent technology in school buses does help the investigation. Nearly every bus has a camera, which focuses on vehicles and plates that unlawfully pass the bus.

"If the driver isn't produced, the owner of the vehicle will be implicated," Krukow said.

Mark Lawson, Spencer police chief, does not believe that the stricter laws will change the number of drivers that pass illegally.

"People make bad decisions, regardless of the fine," Lawson said.

However, both Krukow and Lawson do agree that the majority of the violations occur because drivers have become increasingly distracted by music, food, and more recently, smartphones and other hand-held technology devices.

"People blow stop signs and get in accidents because they didn't see it or they're distracted," Lawson said. "Law enforcement helps, but once you pass the test and get the license, it's up to you."

The law that requires drivers to stop for school buses has been in effect for over 10 years, but Krukow can only remember a few instances where a driver deliberately passed a bus.

"People just need to slow down," he said.

In addition to the stricter mandates on vehicles, further steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the children riding the bus. A new law requires a school district to perform a criminal background check each time they hire a new driver, as well as each time their license is renewed.

Julie Nemmers, the Director of Transportation at Spencer Schools, thinks that this stricter standard is a positive change for the district and for its students.

"It used to be that when you hired a driver, they could drive for 30 years and never get checked," she said. "It's a great benefit for somebody who feels they can act however they want, thinking their job is secure."

However, Nemmers did note that she doesn't believe there's much of a risk at Spencer schools.

These new traffic laws went into effect on July 1.

Kadyn's Law, now passed in Iowa and signed by Governor Brandstad, is moving on to the national legislature, in hopes that it will become a national standard.

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  • Just what we need, more laws for the ignorant to ignore. You can't legislate stupidity, yet time after time these fine "elected" officials spend millions upon millions trying to do so.

    How about actually fixing something? Lets try that.

    -- Posted by Dick Butkus on Tue, Jul 3, 2012, at 5:23 PM
  • You see, Dick, we are very close to seeing a very bad accident with an emergency crew. I can't understand what people are thinking when they just slow down or only move over one lane. Heck, I have seen people stop dead in the middle of the road, and in an intersection, as if that could possible help.

    No, what gets peoples attention is big fat fines, then they complain and word gets out. So this becomes an ad campaign, financed by the offenders. Just deserts.

    -- Posted by A. View Point on Wed, Jul 4, 2012, at 11:45 AM
  • Almost everyday last year when getting my son off the bus a car would try to still pass the bus with its lights flashing and stop sign out. Apparently they didn't care about the fine or though nobody would be fast enough to get their plate number. I really hope these increased fines help cuz I'd hate to see someone get hurt over something so stupid.

    -- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Thu, Jul 5, 2012, at 12:29 PM
  • I love how both the chief and sheriff agree phones are a major source of distraction whenever the topic comes up, but you can always see a deputy or patrolling officer driving around, often speeding or failing to signal and on their cell phones. I agree people should use "common sense" when these issues come about, but the fact is many people are idiots. That will never change, and "awareness" by introducing jail time and higher fines probably isn't going to make any difference, except in bloating budgets. Lawson is correct in saying it won't really affect the bad decision making-but fails to make the connection (or has decided against admitting as much) or justification for increased fines allegedly being used to curb the very actions the fines won't affect.

    With school buses, nobody has figured out that putting a flashing stop sign on the back of the vehicles would likely help. And I don't understand how increasing fines for something that apparently happens so infrequently there are only a few instances recalled is going to make a real difference, then.

    It's always prudent to hope the change will help the situation, but I have little confidence it actually will.

    -- Posted by jlees on Thu, Jul 5, 2012, at 11:59 PM
  • jleses- the buses have flashing lights on the front and back, at least 1 stop sign with flashing lights that extends out the side. As I stated in my previous post this isn't something that happens as infrequently as people seem to think. I see it happen on an almost daily basis! I personally don't care if the person is too stupid to learn a lesson from paying high fines, it helps the city and it really should help the people learn a lesson. Better than sitting back and doing nothing about it until someone hits a kid because they don't feel like waiting.

    -- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Fri, Jul 6, 2012, at 11:20 AM
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