RIVER EDGE, NJ -- Today, Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced the bipartisan Miranda Vargas School Bus Driver Red Flag Act – or “Miranda’s Law,” in honor of Miranda Vargas, the East Brook Middle School student killed in the tragic bus accident last month. The bus crashed when the driver, whose license had been suspended 14 times, attempted to make an illegal U-turn.
Gottheimer's legislation would allow state and government agencies to share information more quickly and effectively regarding the status of school bus drivers with Commercial Drivers Licenses, and swiftly alert the school districts which employ the drivers if they receive anything more serious than a parking ticket, in-state or out-of-state.
"By definition an accident is something that could've been avoided," said Joevanny Vargas, Miranda's father. "This was no accident."
Yesterday would've been Miranda's 11th birthday. Her twin sister, Madison, and her parents spent the day at the cemetery where Miranda was buried.
Gottheimer's proposed Miranda's Law builds off the momentum created by the bipartisan Secure Every Child Under the Right Equipment Standards (SECURES) Act of 2018, which he introduced last month, and which would make seat belts mandatory in all yellow school buses across the country.
Under current federal regulations, employers of school bus drivers are required to check their employees’ driving history records annually. So, if a driver fails to self-report a traffic violation or license suspension, it could be up to 364 days before a school district or school bus company receives that information. Miranda’s Law builds off a Department of Transportation (DOT) pilot program to implement a robust nationwide employer notification service, with each state required to use the service. The expansion of this program will save lives by alerting school districts quickly of motor vehicle infractions committed by school bus drivers. Additionally, Gottheimer cited a feasibility study which found that such an employer notification service (ENS) would pay back at 15:1 and pay for itself in less than a year.
"This system will save lives and save dollars. It's not a partisan issue. It's a families issue," said Congressman Gottheimer.
Mr. Vargas described his daughter as humble, bright, and friendly. He said she loved cartoons on tv, and loved children of all ages. She was religious, and led her family in prayer many nights over dinner.
"We miss her so much. We are still in denial. We cannot accept this," said Mr. Vargas. "Anyone opposed to this bill should not be in office."
Gottheimer's announcement comes only one day after Bergen County Executive, who was in attendance today, announced County-wide safety improvements coming to the 50+ busses that transport children attending the Bergen County Technical and Special Services School Districts.
"While you cannot protect against every potential danger, we must take steps to protect other children and other communities from experiencing this tragedy,” said County Executive Jim Tedesco, who is from Paramus. “Installing 3-point safety restraints in our county school bus fleet will provide Bergen County children traveling on our buses with the same protection they have in their family car.”