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2 bills submitted to toughen laws on student bus operations

2 bills submitted to toughen laws on student bus operations

Posted March. 30, 2013 06:18,   


Two bills aimed at strengthening laws on the operations of children’s buses have been submitted to the National Assembly in the wake of the recent accidents resulting in the deaths of little children.

The bills seek criminal prosecution for a driver who causes an accident by failing to check if a child has safely gotten off a bus, and limiting the granting of a license to drive a children’s bus to only those who complete safety education.

According to Rep. Kim Jang-shil of the ruling Saenuri Party on Friday, he submitted a bill to partially revise the Special Act on Traffic Accident Countermeasures to pursue criminal charges against a driver who causes an accident due to failure to carefully watch for children. The move came in the wake of the death of a 3-year-old girl, who was run over by a bus she got off Tuesday, in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province.

According to the current law, even if the driver of children’s bus causes an accident that results in injury or death to a child, the driver shall not be criminally charged if the bus is registered with an insurance cooperative, if he or she did not commit one of the 11 major violations such as violating traffic signals or crossing a median divide, or if the victim does not want the driver punished. This has led to criticism that a bus driver who runs over a child gets off without punishment or repercussion, and that the law effectively causes drivers to violate rules rather than observing them. Rep. Kim’s revision bill is designed to toughen punishment for a driver who causes an accident.

“I fully realized the seriousness of the issue after reading a series of articles in The Dong-A Ilbo`s annual campaign ‘Stop Traffic Violations,` said Rep. Kim. “If a child is injured due to the driver’s failure to carry out his or her responsibility to ensure safety, the driver and the owner of the educational facilities that operates the bus should be punished, irrespective of the victim’s intent to penalize.”

On Friday, Rep. Park Seong-ho (Saenuri-Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province) also submitted a bill to partially revise the Road Traffic Act. His bill wants the issuance of a driver’s license only to those who complete safety education for children’s buses, and is in line with Dong-A’s proposal for a professional licensing system for bus drivers.

Under the existing Road Traffic Act, a company or organization that hires a bus and its driver must take a three-hour traffic safety course every three years, but violators are not subject to penalty. Though the Road Traffic Authority has been conducting safety training courses since last year, just 41,054 people, or a third of the drivers operating buses for students, have taken the courses.

A long time will likely be needed before these revision bills are legislated into law, however. Review of the bills can come only when the parliamentary subcommittee on land, which oversees the act, convenes. Afterwards, the bills must pass the parliamentary legislation and judiciary committee before being forwarded to the plenary session of the Assembly. A revision bill on requiring operators and drivers of student buses to register with police and punishing violators was submitted to the 17th National Assembly, but it was automatically discarded because it was not deliberated on until the inauguration of the next parliament in 2008.

“Both bills are essential to prevent a second Cheongju accident,” said Park Cheon-soo, a senior researcher at Samsung Traffic Research Institute. “As the issue could easily fizzle out when attention weakens, steps should be accelerated to get the bills passed after their submission to the parliament.”