Among Ongoing Efforts to Protect Student Bus Riders
In light of Deadly School Bus Accident on I-80 Last May
(TRENTON) – Continuing to strengthen protections for New Jersey student bus riders, a bill sponsored by Chris Tully, Lisa Swain, and Joann Downey mandating suspension of school bus drivers who receive multiple motor vehicle moving violations in a three-year period became law Thursday.
The legislation was 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 law will make sure a school bus driver’s motor vehicle violations do not go overlooked again.”
The new law (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 law now establishes notification requirement for the Chief Administrator and Commissioner of Education. The bus driver is required to complete a defensive driving course before the endorsement is reinstated.