HUDSON — City leaders have decided to impose a tougher penalty on motorists who drive past a stopped school bus that has red lights flashing and its stop sign extended.
City Council on Tuesday voted 6-0 to approve legislation that calls for up to a $1,000 fine, up to 30 days in jail and a driver’s license suspension for up to one year for a first offense. Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) was absent.
The previous law (which was in line with the state law) called for a fine of up to $500 and also suspended a motorist’s driver’s license for up to one year.
The penalties for subsequent offenses that occur within one year of a driver being convicted of, or pleading guilty to a previous school bus offense are a fine of up to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail, and a mandatory 30-day license suspension with the option of a suspension up to one year.
Council member Alex Kelemen (Ward 3) said he spoke with Stow Municipal Court Judge Kim Hoover about the city’s plan to increase the penalties.
"He was very supportive of that," said Kelemen. "He said had we been willing to make it even stronger, he would’ve invoked those penalties as well … He would’ve been willing to do pretty much anything. He said he would back us. That was good to hear. I look forward to having this in place."
Mayor David Basil thanked council for imposing the stiffer penalties; however, he noted his "only regret is that it wasn’t acted upon on Sept. 3, when it could’ve been."
Basil first introduced legislation at the Sept. 3 council meeting. The initial proposal would have increased the fine for a first offense from up to $500 to up to $750, with the potential for up to 30 days in jail and keeping the possibility of a driver’s license suspension for up to one year.
The mayor asked council to approve the legislation on Sept. 3, but a vote to suspend the rules to allow for passage on first reading failed by a 5-2 tally, with Kelemen and Council member Beth Bigham (Ward 4) voting against suspending the rules.
In a discussion at the council workshop on Sept. 10, members informally agreed that they wanted to increase the potential fine for a first offense to $1,000 and the legislation was amended to the version that was approved Tuesday night.
Hudson Police Chief Perry Tabak said his department "gets calls regularly" about motorists passing a stopped school bus where children are either boarding or exiting. Tabak noted police have worked with the schools on the installation of five video cameras on the school buses in the hopes of catching offenders.
In 2016, the police department recorded 13 reports of vehicles passing school buses and issued one citation, according to city spokesperson Jody Roberts. In 2017, police documented 16 reports and issued 10 citations. In 2018, police recorded 26 reports and issued six citations, and this year, police have received 12 reports and given four citations as of Sept. 12.
Roberts emphasized that these are the reports that were made to the police department.
"I believe there are more that are reported to the schools," she said.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.