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.
On Wednesday, Joevanny Vargas, Miranda’s father, along with his family, accompanied Gottheimer to the nation’s Capitol to help make a renewed push to advance the legislation forward.
Vargas, along with his daughter, Madison, and father, Johnny, went door to door on Capitol Hill to gather support for the bills, as well as met with key members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, according to Gottheimer.
“We are here to help turn tragedy into hope for other children and families. I am so grateful that Joevanny and his family came down to Washington so that they could tell their story to members of Congress on why our communities so desperately need this bipartisan legislation.” said Gottheimer. “Miranda’s Law, and the SECURES Act, will help save lives.”
- 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.
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.
In April, 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.
"Our work today, with our meetings all around Capitol Hill, is paving the way to get this legislation passed in the House - and to get companion legislation going in the Senate. We are honoring the life of Miranda Vargas and doing everything we can to make sure our kids are as safe as they can be. We live in the greatest country in the world, and if we are to ensure that our best days will always be ahead of us, we have to protect our children -- our future," Gottheimer said.