School Bus Safety and Kadyn’s Law

In a few short weeks kids will be heading back to school, which means school buses will be making their frequent stops to pick up and drop off students.  For those of us driving on the roadways, we not only need to be mindful of children crossing the streets but also the school buses themselves.  Passing a school bus which is stopped and its stop sign out can result in serious consequences.

Flash back to May of 2011.  In Kensett, a small town in northern Iowa, 7-year-old Kadyn Halverson was killed by a motorist who blew past her school bus that was stopped with its stop-arm out and flashing lights activated.  Halverson’s family lobbied lawmakers to pass stricter penalties for those who pass school buses with their stop-arms extended.  The result was Kadyn’s Law – also known as the “Keep Aware Driving – Youth Need School Safety Act.”

Kadyn’s Law is codified under Iowa Code section 321.372.  The main points of this law are:

  1. When a driver meets a bus with flashing amber warning lamps must reduce their speed to not more than 20 mph;
  2. When a driver meets a school bus that is stopped with the stop-arm extended, the driver shall bring their vehicle to a complete stop, and shall remain stopped until the stop-arm is retracted and the bus resumes motion, at that time the driver must proceed with caution;
  3. When a driver is overtaking a school bus, the driver shall not pass a bus when red or amber lights are flashing, and must bring the vehicle to a complete stop, no closer than 15 feet from the bus, and remain stopped until the stop-arm is retracted and the bus resumes motion.

The criminal penalties of Kadyn’s Law are:
           First Offense: simple misdemeanor, fine between $250 and $675, and or up to 30 days in jail.
           Second or subsequent offense: serious misdemeanor, fine between $315 and $1875, and           
           the court may impose up to one year of jail.

What many are not aware of is that the criminal penalties are not the end of the sanctions.  A conviction for Kadyn’s Law qualifies as a serious violation pursuant to the Department of Transportation’s administrative rules.  The driver’s license sanctions are:
          First offense: 30 day license suspension;
          Second offense: 90 day license suspension;
          Third offense: 180 day license suspension.

Once a person is convicted of this offense and receives notice of the suspension, they have a right to appeal the imposed sanction.  A violation for a serious offense, such as this, is not a mandatory suspension; it is discretionary.  Based upon the facts and circumstances of the case the Department can choose not to suspend the person’s license.  However, the reality of the situation is that the Department treats this as a mandatory suspension.

On more than one occasion, GRL Law has successfully argued to the Administrative Law Judge (the person who hears appeals of driver’s license sanctions) that a license suspension was not warranted based upon the facts and circumstances of the offense, only to have it overturned by the Director of Driver Services.  In one instance the Director upheld the suspension, ruling that it was a mandatory suspension.  Upon review, the district court agreed with GRL Law’s interpretation of the statute that it was a discretionary suspension.  The district court remanded the case back to the Director of Driver Services to exercise discretion.  In his discretion, the Director upheld the suspension.  Despite the language used in the administrative code that this is a discretionary suspension, the DOT had made it a mandatory one.  The Cedar Rapids Gazette put together a great article on the basis and effects of Kadyn’s Law (you can read the article here), and as of the date of the article 1,401 violations of Kadyn’s law had been processed by the DOT, all of them had their licenses suspended. 

The license suspension does not end the effect of a violation of Kadyn’s Law.  Once a person’s license is suspended, they are eligible for a temporary restricted license, but that only allows them to drive to and from work and for work purposes and a few other things.  It does not authorize a person to take their children to school or extracurricular activities.  Additionally, the driver is required to pay a $200 civil penalty to the DOT and pay for high-risk SR-22 insurance for a two-year period. On top of that, once their license is reinstated, they are on probation with the DOT for one year; wherein if they are convicted of another moving violation during that probation period their license is subject to suspension.

Whether you believe the sanctions for a violation of this law is fair or not, as the school year begins make sure you pay attention for school buses.  The safety of children headed off to school is of the utmost importance, but a lapse of care or judgment can lead to serious penalties and undue stress.