Assembly Democrats Lisa Swain, Chris Tully and Assembly Transportation Chairman Daniel Benson recently introduced a comprehensive seven-bill package addressing school bus safety concerns and strengthening protections for New Jersey students on school buses.
The bill package was prompted by incidents occurring earlier this year involving buses from Paramus and on Route 206 near Cherry Hill. The Assembly Transportation Committee held a hearing in June immediately following the Paramus school bus accident and invited various state and local representatives to provide testimony on current state school bus regulations.
“Increasing safety for every student that boards a school bus is the objective here. Whether it’s a student who rides a school bus to school or students on a bus trip, nothing is more important than their safety,¨ said Swain (D- Bergen, Passaic). Each of these seven bills is directly related to a concern raised by parents, school officials and Assembly members over the last several months.¨
“We’ve reviewed regulations, spoke to federal and state department officials as well as heard the testimony of students from Paramus. Their concerns guided our goal to ensure every child is as safe as possible.¨ said Tully (D-Bergen, Passaic). These bills will both strengthen and expand current law to make school bus safety a priority in New Jersey.¨
During the hearing, legislation that requires school buses to be equipped with lap and shoulder belts (A-4110), sponsored by Swain, Tully and Benson, was approved by the committee. The bill has cleared the legislature and now awaits the Governor’s consideration.
“It was extremely important to move quickly on developing legislation to increase protection of our students on school buses,¨ said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “These are viable solutions to the concerns raised in June. We look forward to discussing these bills further in committee in the fall.¨
The 7-bill legislative package– sponsored by all three members– includes the following:
A-4345 Codifies the State Board of Education regulation on the safety education program;
A-4344 Requires written verification when any school bus driver’s privileges are suspended or revoked within 24 hours;
A-4343 Requires boards of education and school bus contractors employ certain school bus safety personnel;
A-4342 Requires each school district to develop and implement a policy requiring all students to carry school identification during off-campus activities and that a list be kept of the students on the bus for emergency purposes;
A-4341 Requires school bus drivers to renew school bus endorsement each time they renew their commercial driver’s license;
A-4339 Aligns state school bus regulations with federal code; and
A-4346 Requires school bus driver endorsement holders and applicants to submit proof of physical fitness from a certified medical examiner to MVC.
The three Assembly members are also sponsors of legislation (A-4224) that would direct the Commissioner of Education to study safety of school bus passengers in certain emergency situations, including school bus accidents, which was approved by the Assembly in June.