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Madden’s School Bus Seat-Check Legislation Ensuring No Child Is Left Behind Becomes Law

New Law Requires Drivers to Inspect Their Vehicles at the End of the Route for Any Remaining Children

TRENTON – Acting Governor Codey today signed into law S-328, legislation sponsored by Senators Fred Madden and Steve Sweeney, Assemblymen David Mayer, Paul Moriarty and John Burzichelli which will require school bus drivers to visually inspect their vehicles for students after completing their routes.

Their measure imposes penalties for any school bus driver who fails to ensure all children are off a bus before leaving the vehicle after completing a route.

“This bill puts the responsibility on negligent bus drivers. A bill like this shouldn’t be necessary, but clearly it is,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “Within the past few months, two young children who had been left on school buses were found wandering around lost, cold and alone. Negligent bus drivers must be held responsible for their actions, and that was my intent in sponsoring this bill.

“It’s tragic that we have to legislate common sense and responsibility, but it is even more tragic that young children were being left on school busses by people who were paid to take care of them,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “The signing of this legislation is a step in the right direction toward making sure that our children are kept as safe as possible when they are transported to and from school.”

The legislature sought the vote in response to the recent news of 5-year-old girl found; braving the heavy winds for a half an hour after her school bus driver left the kindergarten student alone on a parked bus. This incident occurred less than one month after 3-year-old Elijah Edwards, of Glassboro, was found shivering on the streets of Vineland, shining yet another spotlight on the responsibility of school bus drivers. The bill was originally drafted after 3 year old Austin Morgan was left on a bus in Washington Township for 3 hours.

“We must do everything in our power to ensure that our children are safe from the time they get on the bus in the morning until the time they return home after the school day,” said Assemblyman Mayer, D-Gloucester/Camden. “Under the bill, the burden will fall on the bus driver to inspect the bus with consequences laid out for offenses because the safety and future of our students and children depends on it.”

The new law will suspend a bus driver’s license the first time they leave a child unattended on a bus, revoke the license of a bus driver who commits the offense a second time, and permanently revoke the license school bus endorsement of any driver found to have acted with gross negligence in any case that a child is harmed if alone on a bus in the presence of any potential dangers.

“Leaving one child on the bus is one child too many,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “We must continue searching for ways to put more safeguards in place to protect our children as they travel to and from school.”

According to the 2007 School Transportation Buyer’s Guide, over 224 million school bus rides are taken by New Jersey students on 21,780 school buses.

“When it comes to keeping our kids safe we must do more than just hope that the right thing is being done,” said Assemblyman Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro). “Every extra second that a bus driver spends at the end of a route ensuring every child has safely left the vehicle is time well spent.”

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