Baltimore Co. school bus bill amended

April 08, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County children who now must cross high-speed roads to get on and off school buses each day will likely get relief next year from an amended Senate bill approved by the county's House delegation and a key House committee.

The most controversial portion of Senate Bill 79 was eliminated during an impromptu delegation meeting Tuesday. The amended bill then was approved 14-9 by the delegation. The House Ways and Means Committee approved it yesterday.

Since its Senate sponsor, Republican F. Vernon Boozer of Towson, agreed with the amendments, the bill likely will not face any opposition in the General Assembly.

As amended, the proposed law would require buses to pick up or discharge students on the same side of the road as their homes if the speed limit on the road is higher than 40 mph.

Deleted from the earlier bill was a requirement that on lower-speed roads the children would cross only while their bus is stopped with red lights flashing, and under the driver's supervision.

This is normal practice in Maryland's 22 other counties, but the idea was opposed vehemently by county school officials and bus drivers who argued that the change would make conditions much more dangerous for children.

Children crossing in the mistaken belief they would be protected could be struck by motorists, who frequently ignore stopped school buses, they said.

Republican Del. A. Wade Kach, sponsor of the amendments, said making some changes is better than doing nothing. "The bill helps remove some dangerous situations," he said.

"It's the only thing I could get," Senator Boozer said.

Even in weakened form, the bill was hailed by C. Ann Vinci of White Hall, mother of an 11-year-old county student who died in January 1993 when a car hit him in pre-dawn darkness as he crossed Old York Road to reach his bus stop.

"It's still a good law," she said, noting that the road her son and 21 other students crossed has a 50 mph speed limit.

Mrs. Vinci said the movement to seek more safety improvements in bus transportation for county children would continue.

"We'll be back," she said. "We will always be back."

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