Gov. signs school bus safety legislation

Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a package of school bus safety bills into law which he said raises safety standards for school buses and school bus operators in New Jersey.

“After (a) tragic school bus accident earlier this year, it became clearer than ever that we must act to protect our children and educators through common sense school bus safety reforms,” Murphy said.

“Thanks to our actions in partnership with the Legislature, parents will be able to send their children to school knowing that school buses and school bus drivers are being held to extremely high standards designed to ensure the safety of students,” he said.

According to a press release, the legislation signed by Murphy enshrines in law the following requirements:

• A-4339 requires school bus operations in the state to comply with federal regulations concerning safety, noise emissions, insurance and drug testing, among other areas;

• A-4345 requires all permanent and substitute school bus drivers and aides to undergo safety education programs twice every year;

• S-2848 requires holders of a bus driver’s license to submit a medical report by a certified medical examiner. It also requires bus drivers over age 70 to submit proof of physical fitness every year, and those over age 75 to submit this proof every six months;

• S-2850 requires that when the Department of Education notifies a board of education or a school bus contractor that a school bus driver has had their bus driver’s license suspended or revoked, the board of education or school bus contractor must verify to the department that the driver in question no longer operates a bus for them.

“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 Sen. Joseph A. Lagana (Bergen and 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 call for legislative hearings which raised questions about how we can make school buses safer, write tougher regulations relating to bus drivers and bus operators, and how we monitor our children once they board a bus. This package of bills addresses these concerns and should ensure that no parent or child will have to go through what too many have endured these past few months,”  Lagana said.