TRENTON – A series of school bus safety bills sponsored by Senator Joseph Lagana, Senate Transportation Committee Chair Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Senator Linda Greenstein that would aim to improve bus safety and accident response, make bus drivers and company’s more accountable and require every student to carry an identification card at school-sponsored, off-campus activities cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“The May accident involving a Paramus school bus that tragically killed an East Brook Middle School student and a teacher, in addition to leaving many others injured, was a nightmare scenario,” said Senator Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “As parents, we should not have to worry about the safety of our children when they are on a school bus. This horrific accident prompted me to ask how the legislature can help to make school buses safer. The package of bills my Senate colleagues and I are sponsoring should ensure that no parent or child will have to go through what too many have endured since the accident. We are off to a solid start with the Governor signing one into law, however, more needs to be done and we will continue to fight until changes are made.”
We must work to make sure that our children are safe when they get on a school bus. School bus accidents, like the ones we recently experienced must never happen again,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “The bills in the package mandate that school bus operations and drivers be required to comply with both state and federal regulations. School bus drivers must be knowledgeable in how to operate a bus and know the proper safety procedures in the event an accident occurs. These new changes, when implemented, will go a long way in making sure we improve school bus safety for our children.”
“The safety of children is the number one priority of any parent. We expect children to be safe when they go to school, and we expect children to be safe when they ride the bus to school,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We can always make school buses safer, especially as technology changes. New Jersey is a family friendly state, and we need to assure parents that their children will be safe when they ride the bus to school.”
The following bills include:
- Sponsored by Senator Lagana and Senator Greenstein, S-2754 would require the Commissioner of Education, in consultation with directors of various other relevant departments, to study the safety of school bus passengers in various emergency situations. Following a thorough investigation the commissioner would issue a report to the governor and the legislature summarizing their findings and offering recommendations to improve the safety of school bus passengers. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 12-0.
- Sponsored by Senator Diegnan and Senator Lagana, S-2848 would require bus drivers to submit proof of physical fitness in the form of a medical examination conducted by a medical examiner recognized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. School bus drivers that are 70 years of age or older would be required to submit proof of physical fitness annually, and drivers over the age of 75 will be required to submit proof every six months. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 12-0.
- Sponsored by Senator Lagana and Senator Diegnan, S-2851 would require boards of education and contractors that provide school transportation services to designate school bus safety personnel. Safety personnel would be required to ensure that the compliance of state and federal laws, rules and regulations are implemented, that the best training in emergency equipment is provided and that accident avoidance practices regarding school bus safety are followed. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 12-0.