(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Celeste M. Riley and John J. Burzichelli that would create additional safety guidelines for school bus drivers transporting individuals with disabilities was advanced last week by an Assembly committee.
The bill (A-925) requires school bus drivers transporting certain disabled individuals to use flashing lights and establishes penalties for drivers who fail to yield.
“This is about keeping people safe and avoiding any potential dangerous situations than can lead to accidents or worse,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “We have all probably witnessed instances when drivers have sped past a stopped school bus. This bill hopes to deter this risky behavior. If common sense won’t do it, then maybe the threat of a fine and imprisonment will.”
“Individuals with disabilities may require additional assistance when leaving or getting on a bus. We should make sure they are able to do it safely without fear of cars whizzing by,” said Burzichelli (D- Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “This bill helps avoid potential incidents by requiring the use of safety equipment, and punishing drivers who fail to adhere to the safety precautions.”
The bill would require school bus drivers to activate flashing lights and other safety equipment when a school bus is stopped to drop off or pick up a person who has a developmental disability. Other motorists would be required to stop their vehicles at a distance of at least 25 feet from a school bus that has activated its flashing lights, pursuant to the provisions of the bill. The flashing lights would be activated while the bus is stopped to drop off or pick up a person, and remain activated until a child or person who has a developmental disability has reached a place of safety.
Under the bill, vehicles would be allowed to pass a school bus carrying individuals with developmental disabilities that is parked at a curb to pick up or drop off passengers, but at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour.
Drivers who pass a school bus transporting persons with developmental disabilities in a manner that violates the law will be subject to the same penalties that apply currently to drivers passing school buses transporting students to and from school. Those penalties are as follows: (1) a fine of not less than $100, (2) imprisonment for not more than 15 days or community service for 15 days in such form and on such terms as the court shall deem appropriate, (3) or both for the first offense, and a fine not less than $250, imprisonment for not more than 15 days, or both for each subsequent offense.
The bill was released unanimously by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and now heads to the full Assembly for final legislative vote.