Wilson Signs Bill on School Bus Flashing Lights

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. Pete Wilson signed a bill Tuesday that was inspired by the death of an Orange County boy hit after he got off a school bus, despite criticism from the child's parents that the legislation doesn't go far enough.

The measure authored by Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) goes into effect Jan. 1 and will give school districts broad discretion to choose the stops where school bus drivers must flash warning lights requiring traffic to halt.

Existing law requires all cars to stop and wait when the warning lights on a school bus are activated, but the driver is required to flash the warning lights only if students are going to cross the street.

Thomas Lanni, who asked Bergeson to carry the bill after his 7-year-old son was killed by a pickup truck while getting off a school bus in Laguna Niguel in April, dropped his support of the bill several weeks ago after it was weakened in committee.

Lanni wanted a mandatory requirement that school bus drivers flash warning lights to stop traffic whenever children are disembarking. Such language was stripped by lawmakers worried that it would cause traffic congestion and increase the risk of accidents from drivers hitting the brakes.

The law signed by Wilson allows school districts to decide if the warning lights should be used at certain stops. A district would have to get permission from the California Highway Patrol and the local traffic engineering department before designating such a stop.

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