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Swain, Tully, Benson, Jones Bill Reinforcing School Bus Safety for Student Riders Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) – Continuing to strengthen state policies concerning school transportation, the Assembly approved legislation today, 80-0, sponsored by Assembly members Lisa Swain, Chris Tully, Daniel Benson, and Patricia Egan Jones that would expand current law to keep students safe on school buses.

The measure was part of a bill package introduced in response to the bus incident on Route 80 in Morris County last year involving Paramus students from the legislative district of Assembly members Swain and Tully. Each of the other measures in the package has become law.

“Student safety is our top priority. This bill is the next step in ensuring proper school bus protocols are in place to protect students,” said Swain (D- Bergen, Passaic). “Parents, students and teachers should feel confident in the safety of our school buses whether as a way to get to school or for a school trip.”

“We’re continuing to address concerns raised by parents and teachers over the last few months as a result of this bus tragedy, which deeply affected our community,” said Tully (D- Bergen, Passaic). “There is more to be done to protect student bus riders and upgrading New Jersey law ensures this is less likely to happen again.”

“Having these safeguards in place will protect our students riding on school buses,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee. “Safety is and must always be a priority when transporting our students to and from school. Each of these bills aims to strengthen transportation policy and state law to ensure safety remains paramount in school districts across the state.”

The bill (A-4342) approved by the Assembly Monday, requires public school students to carry identification cards at school-sponsored, off-campus activities and requires principals to keep list of students on school buses used for school-sponsored activities in case of emergencies.

“Families deserve our full attention to the questions raised after the Paramus tragedy,” said Jones (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Aligning state law with federal law and requiring certain medical screenings for drivers are two important steps toward ensuring stronger protections for student passengers.”

Among the previous school bus rider safety measures signed into law and sponsored by Swain, Tully and Benson is legislation requiring three-point lap belt on school buses; school bus operations in State to comply with certain federal regulations; 24 hours of notification that school bus driver’s license is suspended or revoked, and for school bus drivers to submit medical certificate to MVC to prove continuing physical fitness and to submit to medical examination that includes certain screenings.

The Senate version of the bill (S-2885) has been approved by the Senate Transportation Committee and awaits further consideration.