INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Shane and Brittany Ingle walk into the Indiana Statehouse Monday carrying the smiles of their kids, 6-year old twins Xzavier and Mason Ingle and their 9-year old sister Alivia Stahl, close to their heart.
“All my kids were so happy, always laughing, always smiling. They had such contagious smiles,” Brittany Ingle said.
The family is fighting for change in the kids' honor to make sure no others experience the loss they have.
“This isn't just our family it affects each and every child,” the children’s grandfather, Michael Schwab, said.
Police say Xzavier, Mason and Alivia were killed by a driver in October on State Rd. 25 in Fulton County while crossing the road to board the bus. A fourth child was seriously injured. Police say the school bus’s stop arm was out.
Investigators charged the driver, Alyssa Shepherd, 24, with three counts of reckless homicide and a misdemeanor charge of passing a school bus causing injury.
“Life is so short, you never think in a million years that,” Brittany Ingle said.
“It’s gonna happen to you,” Shane Ingle said, finishing her sentence.
“Exactly, like you don’t, and here we are. And I will be so happy to make the difference, but inside, you know you're just so sad that it had to be ours,” Brittany Ingle said.
They’re turning their tragedy into action, calling for tighter rules at school bus stops and tougher penalties for drivers who ignore the law. They want the legislation called ‘M.A.X. Strong’ for Mason, Alivia and Xzavier.
“Our passion in life were our children, that’s what we lived for,” Brittany Ingle said.
“This is a way to keep the passion going and save other kids, and save people, save families from experiencing this because this is unbearable. It's hard to even comprehend the loss we've experienced," Shane Ingle said.
The family is pushing specifically for greater penalties and cameras on school bus stop arms to catch violators as deterrents.
They want more education on school bus traffic laws during driver’s tests and education. They want kids to not cross state highways and lower speed limits at school bus stops. They’ve done extensive research, created a website explaining their efforts and met with state lawmakers.
“I think that it would just be just a tragedy if we didn't take advantage of this terrible opportunity to try to improve it to where no other family went through this,” Schwab said.
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.
“These are my people. These people live in my district. I’ve met with them, I’ve talked with them,” State Sen. Randy Head said.
He is one of several lawmakers who know there needs to be change. He filed Senate Bill 2 on Monday.
It would increase the penalties for a driver who does not stop when a school bus stop arm is extended and allow for the suspension of a person’s driving privileges with the offense. It would also require school districts to review bus routes and school bus safety policies each year.
It would allow for more information on a how school or individual may petition to reduce speed limits in areas to ensure students can safely get on a school bus.
It would also provide that when a school bus is on a US or state route students can’t be required to cross the roadway unless there are no other safe alternatives available.
“I want every driver, me included, everyone included, to be aware when they're on the road with a school bus,” Sen. Head said.
State Representative Jim Pressel is looking into legislation regarding cameras.
“My number one goal is to protect children who are getting on and off the school bus. School bus stop arm cameras could be a valuable tool in deterring lawbreakers from passing a stopped bus and endangering students. By working together with other lawmakers and community members, we can help ensure Hoosier children’s safety,” he wrote in a statement.
The children’s family echoes the safety message too.
They remember the twins with their inquisitive nature. They remember Alivia holding her brothers’ hands, their protector. And with their efforts, hope their three young lives can help protect and save other children.
“We’re speaking up to for anybody that has lost a child that way,” Brittany Ingle said.
For more information on school bus traffic laws, click here.