INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The family of 6-year old twins Mason and Xzavier Ingle and their sister, 9-year old Alivia Stahl, wore their pictures and birthstones around their neck as they sat alongside lawmakers Tuesday. They were driven by the memories of the three young lives cut short as lawmakers unveiled school bus safety legislation.
The siblings were struck and killed by a driver while boarding their schools bus on State Road 25 in Fulton County. Investigators said the stop arm of the bus was deployed.
“They were such beautiful, loving, caring kids, full of life. A life that they loved living and got taken from them so short. And it’s so unfair,” said the children’s mother, Brittany Ingle. “We’re just wanting to make sure we make them proud still.”
Since the crash, the children’s family has turned their tragedy into a push to save more lives. They’ve researched extensively, started advocating for change and met with state lawmakers.
“We need to help make drivers more accountable and help protect our children,” said the children’s grandfather, Michael Schwab.
They want tougher penalties for violating a school bus stop arm, cameras on school bus stop arms and measures to make sure kids are not crossing state highways to get to their school bus.
According to a voluntary survey from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services taken on a single day in 2018, there were about 3,000 illegal passes of school buses observed in Indiana. Nationwide throughout the school year, the numbers indicate more than 15 million violations.
“We did everything we could for our kids to make sure that they were as safe as possible. Unfortunately this happened to us, unfortunately it happens to a lot of people,” father Shane Ingle said.
State Senator Randy Head filed Senate Bill 2, informally known as the M.A.X. Strong Act in honor of the children’s names.
It would increase the penalty for failing to stop when a school bus arm is extended, including from a class A misdemeanor to a level 6 felony for a driver who recklessly passes an extended school bus arm and causes injury. It would require the court to suspend driving privileges for first time offenders.
The proposed legislation would also require each school corporation that provides student transportation to annually review their school bus routes and safety policies. It would also make it so kids would not be required to cross a U.S. or state route unless no other alternative was available. If on a street or highway, the driver would have to pick up and drop off students as close to the right hand curb as practical.
Sen. Head said he’s cautiously optimistic about it passing, but anticipates amendments.
“We have a lot of legislators who are here today who are already on board who want to help out,” State Sen. Head said.
State Rep. Jim Pressel also filed a distracted driving bill, HB1340. It addresses hands free driving, speed enforcement in critical work zones and cameras on school bus stop arms.
He said violations of school bus stop arms would be enforced through local jurisdictions and unless there’s prosecution, the images would be destroyed within 90 days.
“We have a lot of school corporations that are actually doing it and talking about doing it right now through their transportation budget. So what this bill also provides for is an opportunity for them to partner with a third party provider,” State Rep. Pressel said.
State Rep. Pressel said 16 other states already have similar measures.
Following the crash, the Rochester School Corporation implemented changes. The district’s superintendent said all routes now include same side drop off and pick up. Through donations, they’re raising money to put cameras on all 16 main route buses.
While Mason, Xzavier and Alivia tried to board their bus, their mother said Alivia tried to shield and save her brothers.
“What 9-year old does that? I’m just so proud of her and I miss her every day. I miss all of them. I love them. They were my passion in life so this is now our passion,” Brittany Ingle said.
The measures won’t bring back Mason, Alvia and Xzavier, but moving forward the siblings may shield even more lives.
“If we can try and help save another family from going through a loss or even unfortunately a tragedy then we want to do that,” their mother said.
For more information on school bus traffic laws, click here.