Could Kadyn’s Law go national?

Published 11:50 am Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kadyn Halverson is shown with her mother and step-father, Kari Halverson and Ryan Meyer, of Kensett. Kadyn was killed when struck by a pickup in May 2011 while boarding a school bus. — Photo provided by the family to Globe Gazette

Bus stop law named after area girl proposed in Congress

NORTHWOOD, Iowa — Less than a week after Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed Kadyn’s Law, an Iowa congressman on Wednesday introduced a bill that would apply the measure nationwide.

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, introduced the bill named after the late Kadyn Halverson, of rural Kensett, which gives tougher penalties to people who don’t heed school bus stop signs. Kadyn died in May 2011 after she was struck by a pickup as she crossed a county road at her babysitter’s home in rural Northwood to board a bus.

After her death, her mother, Kari Halverson, along with advocate Kim Koenings, sought to bring tougher penalties in Iowa for people who violate school bus arm laws.

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“Thanks to Kadyn, Iowa has become a national leader in school bus safety,” Braley said in a written statement. “It’s time every state adopt these strict standards so the penalty matches the severity of this crime.”

Braley said when reckless drivers ignore warnings and pass stopped school buses, they put children’s lives in danger.

“Toughening penalties for drivers who violate school bus safety laws will save lives and convince more people to drive responsibly around kids and schools,” he said.

The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services estimates cars illegally pass stopped school buses 13 million times per year. About 16 children per year are killed by drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.

The federal Kadyn’s Law would require states to strengthen their penalties for drivers who pass stopped buses to the new Iowa standard at a minimum — or face losing 10 percent of federal highway funding each year.

Under Kadyn’s Law in Iowa, a person who fails to slow for a bus with flashing lights or stop when the arm is extended can incur $250 to $675 in fines and up to 30 days in jail. A second offense within five years, brings $315 to $1,875 in fines and up to one year of jail time.

The man who struck and killed Kadyn, 32-year-old Aaron Gunderson, was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

“As a mother who has lost a child by someone illegally passing by a stopped school bus, I can only hope and pray our leaders at the national level will embrace this act for our children over the country,” Kari said.

She said the fact that Kadyn’s Law was introduced at the federal level was “beyond amazing.”

Koenings said she and Halverson sent Braley a pink binder of research and information advocating the law. She kept in contact with him along the way, but didn’t think anything was going to happen.

“My priority was the state level,” Koenings said.

“How cool is it that little Kadyn is hopefully going to save so many lives?” she added.