DeBARY, Fla. - Donald Mair says he's been fighting for tougher school bus laws for five years, ever since his little girl, Gabby, got hit by a car and died shortly after getting off her school bus in DeBary.
"She's first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think of when I go to bed at night," Mair said.
And he'll be thinking of gabby on Wednesday morning, when he'll try to convince a senate committee to pass Gabby's Law, filed by Rep. Irv Slosberg.
"The penalty would fit the crime," Mair said, if the law passes. "As it stands now, if you pass on side where kids get off school bus, it's only a $200 fine."
Right now, the law requires cars travelling in both directions to stop for a school bus with it's stop arms out on a two lane road and on a multi-lane road.
If it's a divided highway with a median or at least five feet of unpaved space or a barrier, drivers behind the bus must stop. Cars on the opposite side don't have to stop, but should proceed with caution.
Local 6 obtained video from cameras mounted onto school buses in Seminole County showing car after car passing a school bus with its stop arms extended.
A 2014 state study found vehicles passing school buses 2,881 times in one day in Central Florida -- with 77 of those passing a school bus on the right.
"It shouldn't be happening at all, so hopefully hitting people in the pocketbook and threatening them with jail will make them think," Mair said. "And stop them from doing this stupid act."
If Gabby's law passes, someone passing a bus on the side where kids get on and off "when the school bus displays a stop signal commits reckless driving," according to the current draft of HB487. As it stands now, the penalty is only a moving violation.
Aside from dangers outside of the school bus, crash test video showing dummies being banged around inside of a school bus also concerns Mair. He believes officials should do more to make sure students are wearing seat belts.
"It's only common sense. If we have to wear seatbelts while in our vehicle it's the law. If you're in a motor vehicle, you're supposed to be belted in," Mair said.
Florida is among a handful of states that requires school buses to have seat belts. But school officials admit students often won't wear them.
[MORE: HB 487 ]
Local 6 will be monitoring the progress of Gabby's Law as it works through the Legislature. Check back with Clickorlando.com for updates.
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