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State Lawmakers Consider Hiking Penalities for Passing School Buses

Statehouse News Bureau
Brittany Robertson and Audrey Napier, mother and grandmother of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Robertson-Rutland, 11, testified in support of the bill. Lizzie died after two cars hit and then ran her over as she was walking to her school bus in Columbus this fall.";s:

State lawmakers are looking at a bill that would hike the penalties for passing a school bus as it’s picking up or dropping off kids. 

Audrey Napier’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Lizzie Robertson-Rutland, was run down and killed while walking to her school bus in Columbus one early morning in September.

“We don’t want any other family to have to go through what we are dealing with right now. It’s very hard for us,” said Napier. “It’s a very emotional time for us. And we support this bill because we want our children to be safe.”

Napier told a Senate committee she supports the bill, which also has the backing of school groups. It would create the felony of vehicular harm for drivers who hit a child while passing a stopped bus and double the fines for passing one. Between 2015 and 2017, 4,200 drivers were ticketed for passing school buses in Ohio. 

Nine-year-old James Mahlman, of Custar near Bowling Green, told a Senate committee that was hearing the bill that in September that he was nearly hit by a truck that kept going, even though the bus had extended its stop sign arm.

James Mahlman addresses the committee

“It was not going fast, but it did not slow down. I stepped back away from the road,” he said. “If I did not step back, I would have been close enough to touch the vehicle.”

The bill also sets aside $500,000 for installation of cameras on school buses over the next two years. 

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.