The Virginia General Assembly has agreed to fix a grammatical error in a law that makes passing a stopped school bus considered reckless driving.
Washington Post staff writer Tom Jackman reported in November that a key preposition — the word “at” — was eliminated from the statute when it was amended in 1970.
As a result, the statute could be read as requiring drivers to stop school buses, rather than stop for school buses. After being used for decades to charge drivers that flew past school buses, a lawyer successfully persuaded a Fairfax County judge in the fall that the double reading of the statute was confusing enough that his client should be acquitted of a reckless driving charge.
But no more. With the legislative fix, the General Assembly’s intention will be clear.
It will also be more long-winded.
The old statute read: “A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.”
Under that wording, it does indeed sound as though everyone who fails to stop a school bus is guilty of reckless driving. Now, the legislature has agreed to make things perfectly clear.
Here’s what drivers will now be told: “A person driving a motor vehicle shall stop, such vehicle when approaching, from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons, and shall remain stopped until all the persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway and the bus is put in motion; any person violating the foregoing is guilty of reckless driving.”
The bill now goes to the governor for his consideration. The legislature has classified the bill as emergency legislation, meaning it would go into effect immediately upon signing.