This year, West Virginia Legislature Delegate Kelli Sobonya of Cabell, WV, sponsored a bill that would have dole out harsher punishments to those who cause bus accidents. However, the bill failed in the House Finance Committee. A similar bill calling for tougher penalties for those who didn’t stop for school buses died in the House Education Committee last year.
The bill’s major proponent is Linda McCarthy Bailey, a Lincoln County grandmother who lost her granddaughter, 6-year-old Haven Brooke McCarthy in December 2007 when she tried to cross the street after getting off the bus. The driver of the car in that case, Sylvia Martin, saw the flashing lights of the school bus’ stop sign that allows children to cross the road safely, but did not understand that she was supposed to stop.
Martin was found guilty of misdemeanor negligent homicide and was sentenced to six months of house arrest that ends in May of this year.
The failed law, know as “Haven’s Bill,” would have made being at fault for a school bus accident injury punishable by up to three years in prison, plus fines. Being at fault for a school bus accident death would be up to ten years in jail plus fines. Both crimes would have been considered felonies.
“I figured it was a no-brainer, and it was going to be passed,” Bailey said. “I’m not sure why it didn’t get looked at. It will next time. None of this is going to do anything for my granddaughter because she’s dead. Through her death, I hoped something positive could come out of it.”
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