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Assembly Panel Approves Benson & Muoio Bill to Enable Katzenbach School for the Deaf to Continue Driver’s Ed Instruction

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson and Elizabeth Maher Muoio to enable the Katzenbach School for the Deaf to continue offering driver’s education for students was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

The bill is intended to permit the Ewing-based Katzenbach School for the Deaf to make use of a car donated to its driver’s education program. Since 1951, Katzenbach has provided drivers education for hearing-impaired students, with cars typically donated to the program from car dealerships and later from the state’s fleet. When the last car ceased being operational, Katzenbach’s board of directors decided to purchase a used car and donate it to the state motor pool for exclusive use by Katzenbach. However, the school was then informed that because of technicalities the car could not be covered by state insurance.

“There are a lot of things teens anxiously look forward to, like the prom and graduation, but what they typically want more than anything is to get their driver’s license,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “However, in the case of teens attending the Katzenbach School, because it’s owned by the state, they were denied being able to have a driver’s education program after more than 60 years due to a technicality. This bill will rectify that and give these teens something to look forward to once again – a driver’s education program that meets their unique needs as the only state program with an ASL instructor for hearing-impaired students.”

“It’s unfortunate that this program has hit a technical road block,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Behind-the-wheel instruction for those who are hearing-impaired is not something that can easily be replaced by private driving instructors. This bill will make it as simple as possible for Katzenbach to continuing offering this valuable instruction.”

The bill (A-2340) would rectify the situation by allowing a student enrolled in a state school to operate a state vehicle for the purposes of behind-the-wheel instruction as part of the school’s regular curriculum driver education course.
The bill would also extend to students the protections afforded to a state employee under the “New Jersey Tort Claims Act,” when the student is operating a state vehicle for such purposes.

The legislation was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It would take effect immediately upon enactment.