TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson, Bergen) establishing a Bill of Rights for Customers of Certain Autobuses and impose fines for unlicensed drivers was released by the Senate Transportation Committee.
The bill was introduced in response to an accident that caused the death of Angelie Paredes, an eight-month-old infant from North Bergen. The bill contains many reforms aimed at improving safety for pedestrians, commuters and all residents of areas where the vehicles operate.
Angelie died after an autobus jumped the curb along Boulevard East in West New York, knocking down a lamppost and striking and killing her. It is alleged that the driver of the vehicle was using his cell phone at the time of the accident and he is facing up to ten years in prison on various charges.
The bill, S-3082, establishes a bill of rights providing customer protections, obligations of the owners and operators of certain autobuses and basic level of expectations and guarantees of health, safety and welfare of autobus operators. Second, it imposes fines of up to $5,000 on the owner of an autobus company for allowing drivers without a valid commercial license. Current law imposes fines on the vehicle operator, not the company. It further requires owners to post telephone numbers on the inside and outside for passengers and pedestrians to report unsafe driving. Lastly, the bill allows police officers to obtain a blood sample from an autobus operator, if the vehicle was involved in an accident resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of any person.
“It took a horrific tragedy to finally bring attention to this issue. Sadly, an infant had to lose her life to make it happen. Today’s action is bringing us a step closer to protecting the lives of those who ride these vans as well as pedestrians on the busy streets of Hudson County,” said Sacco, who also serves as Mayor of North Bergen. “Unfortunately, federal law and regulations make it difficult for us to do more. Working with Congressman Albio Sires (D-8) and New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, I hope that changes in federal laws will make it easier to stop unsafe and unlawful owners and operators.”
Senator Sacco recognized the efforts of Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, West New York Mayor Felix Roque, other local officials and police departments on their efforts to increase the enforcement of existing traffic and safety laws on the commuter autobuses. He similarly recognized Assembly colleagues Prieto, Jimenez and Mainor for working with him and the many stakeholders and the public on crafting legislation that protects the residents of New Jersey.
The Senate Transportation Committee passed the bill by a vote of 5-0 and now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.