PARAMUS, NJ - In the wake of the May 17 bus crash that claimed the lives of a Paramus student and teacher, and injured dozens more, a federal bill has been introduced to make seatbelts mandatory in all school buses.
Tuesday in Fair Lawn, Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced the bipartisan Secure Every Child Under the Right Equipment Standards (SECURES) Act of 2018, which would make seat belts mandatory in all yellow school buses across the country, as well as push the U.S. Transportation Department to make three-point belts the national standard.
Gottheimer's bill has the support of Republican Congressman John Faso (NY-19), and Senator Robert Menendez, who plans to introduce Senate companion legislation.
“My kids could have been on that bus – and I can’t imagine what those families are going through. As a parent and as a Congressman, I’m announcing the SECURES Act to help ensure that every child in America is as safe as possible when they’re on the road,” said Gottheimer.
Only school buses 10,000 pounds or less currently require seat belts under federal law. New Jersey state law mandates larger school buses must have lap belts but not lap-and-shoulder belts.
The Transportation Department is urged, under Gottheimer’s bill, to consider nationwide adoption of a recent National Transportation Safety Board recommendation that four states - including New Jersey - that require lap belts in larger school buses upgrade their rules to require three-point belts.
The bill would also encourage the Transportation Department to consider seat belt reminder systems be mandatory in buses. These would alert bus drivers when students are not wearing their seatbelts.
The driver, Hudy Muldrow, 77, of Woodland Park, attempted to make an illegal U-Turn on the highway in an attempt to find his way to Waterloo Village, the planned destination of the bus that was loaded with students and teachers from a Paramus middle school, officials said. Muldrow's decision resulted in the bus being struck by a dump truck traveling in the middle lane of the interstate, an impact that nearly demolished the bus and killed a fifth-grade student and a teacher from East Brook Middle School, said Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp and New Jersey State Police Acting Superintendent Patrick Callahan in a joint statement.
Muldrow Sr., has been released from prison and ordered not to drive. He is awaiting trial on two counts of vehicular homicide. His license has been previously suspended 14 times.
A summary of the SECURES act can be found online.