Bill Sponsored by Assembly Members Tully, Swain, Benson, Jones & Downey
(TRENTON) – Continuing to strengthen protections for New Jersey student bus riders, an Assembly panel approved two measures Thursday mandating suspension of school bus drivers with multiple motor vehicle moving violations in a three-year period and creating a safety education program for bus drivers and aides.
Both bills were prompted by concerns raised during the investigation of the bus accident occurring on Interstate 80 in Mount Olive last May. The bus carried students and teachers from Paramus. A student and a teacher were killed in the crash and more than 40 other bus passengers were injured.
It was discovered that the bus driver’s license was suspended 14 times over 42 years. Six of those were for parking violations; seven were for administrative or paperwork reasons. One of the violations was given for driving while his license was suspended. He also had eight speeding tickets, was cited for improper lane change in 2010 and was involved in five previous crashes.
“There is an obvious loophole in the current system when a school bus driver has multiple motor vehicle violations and continues to drive without suspension or investigation into those violations,” said Tully (D-Bergen, Passaic).
“Preventing tragic accidents and heartbreaking loss that the Paramus community suffered in May relies on closing the gaps in reporting violations, creating suspension protocols and requiring safety training of all bus drivers and aides. This cannot happen again.”
“Our students and teachers deserve to know that they are in good hands when stepping onto a school bus,” said Swain (D-Bergen, Passaic). “It’s unacceptable for any school bus driver to continue to drive students with a history of accidents and moving violations. These bills are the next step in ensuring students and staff are safe when riding school buses.”
“Any motor vehicle violation against a school bus driver should raise red flags within the MVC,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “When parents allow their children to ride the bus, they trust that every precaution has been taken to guarantee their student’s safety. This legislation will make sure a school bus driver’s motor vehicle violations do not go overlooked again.”
One of the bills (A-4447) – sponsored by Tully, Swain, Downey– requires the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission to suspend the school bus endorsement on a person’s driver’s license for 90 days if the person is convicted of three or more motor vehicle moving violations in a three-year period or accumulates six or more motor vehicle penalty points. The bill establishes notification requirement for the Chief Administrator and Commissioner of Education. The bus driver would be required to complete a defensive driving course before the endorsement is reinstated.
Another measure (A-4345) -sponsored by Swain, Tully, Benson and Jones– codifies the State Board of Education regulation on the safety education program that is required to be provided by the employing board of education or school bus contractor to all permanent and substitute school bus drivers and school bus aides. The bill specifies that the safety education program must be provided twice per calendar year.
“It should be mandatory for every bus driver and aide to participate in a bus safety education course,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Safety is paramount for students and staff riding school buses. School bus drivers must be better prepared to handle all driving situations on the road.”
“School bus drivers are carrying precious cargo,” said Jones (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Safety education training should happen regularly and must be required for school bus drivers. We strengthen school board regulation by making safety education for school bus driver’s state law.”
The safety education program must include, at a minimum:
? Student management and discipline;
? School bus accident and emergency procedures;
? Conducting school bus emergency exit drills;
? Loading and unloading procedures;
? School bus stop loading zone safety;
? Inspecting the school vehicle for students left on board at the end of a route;
? The use of a student’s education records, including the employee’s responsibility to ensure the privacy of the student and his records, if applicable.
The bills were released by the Assembly Transportation Committee and will now be considered by the Assembly Speaker for a floor vote.