MADDEN BILLS TO IMPROVE CHILDREN’S SAFETY ON AND AROUND SCHOOL BUSES CLEAR COMMITTEE

Senator Fred Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester, listens to testimony before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee regarding services for people with developmental disabilities.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Madden that would require school buses to be equipped with motion sensors and permitting municipalities and school districts to contract for video monitoring systems to assist in enforcing the law against unlawfully passing a school bus were approved yesterday by the Senate Education Committee.

The first bill, S-2011, also known as Abigail’s law, would require that newly-manufactured school buses be equipped with a sensor to determine the presence of objects in front of or behind the bus. The bill would require the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, to implement regulations on the design and installation of the sensors.

“Implementing motion sensor technology on school buses will help reduce the risks of children passing along a driver’s blind spot,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This area is often a danger for children looking to cross the street or simply get around a school bus while walking. Drivers must have the tools to help them become aware of pedestrians that may be outside of their line of vision.”

The bill is named “Abigail’s Law” in honor of Abigail Kuberiet, a toddler who was struck and killed by a school bus in South Plainfield when she wandered in front of a stopped bus following her mother who had put her 5 year old child on the bus.  The driver was unaware of Abigail’s presence because of her small size made it impossible to see her from the driver’s seat.

A recent incident occurred in WaterfordTownship when 6-year old Edmond Bock IV walked in front of a stopped bus towards the passenger side to get on the bus.  The school bus began to drive off as Bock was walking and the boy was struck and killed.

“Incorporating sensors on school buses and providing drivers with the tools to improve safety, similar to features that have been retrofitted in newer cars, is common sense,” added Senator Madden.  “It would help decrease the likelihood of accidents, especially for children crossing the street in front of or behind the bus.”

The second bill, S-503, permits municipalities and school districts to contract for video monitoring systems to assist in enforcing the law against unlawfully passing a school bus.

“New Jersey law requires vehicles to stop on both sides of the street when a school bus is loading or unloading students, but too often I hear about or actually see vehicles ignoring school bus stop signs and flashing lights,” said Senator Madden, a co-sponsor of the legislation. “This bill will help enforce current law and as a result make the trip to and from school safer for our children.”

Under the legislation, municipalities and school districts that own or operate school buses to transport students may contract with private vendors to install, operate and maintain school bus monitoring systems on their school buses.  Alleged school bus passing violations captured by a monitoring system are to be compiled into an evidence file and forwarded to the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality.  If law enforcement determines that a violation has occurred, a summons is to be issued.

Violators would be subject to a fine of not less than $300 or more than $500, and be assessed five penalty points.

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