PARAMUS, NJ – A year after a school bus crash on Route 80 claimed the lives of fifth grade teacher Jennifer Williamson and 10-year-old student Miranda Vargas, who were traveling from East Brook Middle School in Paramus to Waterloo Village for a field trip, U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer reintroduced a pair of bills aimed at making school buses safer for children across the country.
After announcing Wednesday that Miranda’s Law and the SECURES Act had been introduced again in Washington, D.C., Gottheimer said his commitment is spurred by wanting to “help turn tragedy into hope for other children and families.”
- The Secure Every Children Under the Right Equipment Standards (SECURES Act) would require seatbelts on all school buses, makes three point lap-and-shoulder seatbelts the national standard and encourages measures to ensure students wear their seat belts while on school buses.
- The Miranda Vargas School Bus Driver Red Flag Act (Miranda’s Law) would require real-time background checks so that when a school bus driver has any driving infraction beyond a parking ticket, the school or school bus company will receive an alert about it within 24 hours from the Department of Transportation.
In June, Joevanny Vargas, Miranda’s father, will be accompanying him to the nation’s Capitol to help make a renewed push to advance the legislation forward. There, he'll share his story with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“Josh and I are determined to work together to ensure our kids are safer,” said Vargas. “I will remain motivated to see this through for as long as I live. This is commonsense legislation – it’s not about Republicans or Democrats. This is about our kids. That day, it was my child, and tomorrow it could be yours.”
Gottheimer said: “I’m glad that Miranda’s father, Joevanny, will be joining me in Washington in a few short weeks to tell his story to Members of Congress on why we need to ensure that every child in America is as safe as possible when they’re on the road. Miranda’s Law and the SECURES Act will help save lives and there’s nothing partisan about that.”
Between 2000 and 2014, there have been an average of 115 fatal crashes involving school buses each year, however only eight states – now including New Jersey - have seat belt requirements in place, according to Gottheimer.
Last month, the Paramus school bus driver, 77-year-old Hudy Muldrow, Sr. was indicted on two counts of reckless vehicular homicide and 41 counts of assault by auto in connection with the May 17 crash. Prior to the Route 80 crash, Muldrow’s license was suspended more than 14 times.
“We must strengthen background checks on school bus drivers to protect our children from those, like the driver who drove Miranda’s bus, who have no place getting behind the wheel. And we need to bring three-point seatbelts to school buses nationwide, because the lap belt is a relic of the past,” Gottheimer said.