To prioritize the safety of students as they are transported to and from school, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Christopher Tully, Lisa Swain and Daniel Benson to create an Office of School Bus Safety was signed into law, this past Tuesday.
The law (formerly bill A-5814) creates the Office of School Bus Safety within the Department of Education in order to oversee the school bus industry, including bus contractors and drivers. The office will be comprised of individuals with training and experience related to the school bus industry.
The office’s duties will include, but not be limited to:
· Reviewing a school bus driver’s information for a history of criminal charges or alcohol/drug-related vehicle violations;
· Obtaining statements from school districts or contractors confirming bus drivers’ training certification;
· Coordinating with the Motor Vehicle Commission and the Department of Law and Public Safety to share information regarding school bus safety matters;
· Recommending changes regarding school bus safety rules and regulations;
· And deciding whether contractors should be debarred from bidding on transportation contracts.
With this law, the three Assembly members continue their efforts to enhance school bus safety in New Jersey – an issue they have strongly advocated for after incidents such as an inebriated bus driver with a suspended license hitting several cars, poles and fire hydrants within a 20-minute span, and a student and teacher losing their lives in a tragic bus crash in 2018.
Upon the bill becoming law, Assembly sponsors Tully, Swain (both D-Bergen, Passaic) and Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) issued the following joint statement:
“Right now, a lack of communication between the different entities responsible for school bus oversight is making it easier for bad actors to take advantage of the system and win contracts they are not qualified to fulfill. The safety of New Jersey children must be our priority. Establishing an Office of School Bus Safety will help place oversight in the hands of experienced and dedicated professionals who will conduct thorough reviews, coordinate information on behalf of state officials, and make recommendations for important changes to improve our state’s school bus industry. This is how we keep our students safe.”