SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ –New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and New Jersey State Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (D-Middlesex) on Tuesday presented the Kuberiet family of South Plainfield with a signed copy of the state’s newly enacted ‘Abigail’s Law.’
The bill (A-1455), which passed unanimously in both the senate and the assembly and was signed by Governor Chris Christie earlier this year, is designated in memory of South Plainfield resident Abigail Kuberiet who, in November 2003, was tragically killed by a school bus that was picking up her older siblings en route to Franklin Elementary School. She was just 23-months old.
“Thank you all for being here and sharing in this very special day and that is the recognition of the signing of ‘Abigail’s Law,’” said Abigail’s father, Christopher Kuberiet. “Today is a very, very bittersweet day. Bitter to the extent that we are here in light of a tragedy but it is a sweet day to recognize that hopefully through this legislation a child will be saved in Abigail’s memory. That is very, very important.”
Under ‘Abigail’s Law,’ all New Jersey school buses manufactured on or after 180 days following the bill’s enactment must be equipped with sensors to alert a bus driver when a child walks in front or back of the bus. The bill provides that the design and installation of the sensor must conform to regulations to be promulgated by the State Board of Education in consultation with the chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
According to the Transportation Department, buses transporting students to schools within the Morris School District, have sensors that will beep when the bus is backing up. The Transportation Department has not heard of Abigails Law and would not comment.
According to the National Coalition of School Bus Safety Association, children are more likely to be killed as pedestrians outside a school bus and most often by their own school bus with the majority of accidents involve very young children.
Over the years since his daughter’s death, Christopher Kuberiet joined state lawmakers in calling for newly manufactured school buses to include motion sensors that alert drivers when there are people walking in front of and behind the vehicles.
Diegnan, who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, first introduced legislation to put sensors on buses a year after Abigail's death. Back then, however, the legislation didn't get anywhere, particularly because the type of technology needed was still in its preliminary stages. Today, the motion sensor technology is readily available; the cost to install is between $9,000 and $13,000 per bus.
“It took 13 years to make this happen and I can honestly say that, of all the pieces of legislation I’ve had the privilege of sponsoring, ‘Abigail’s Law’ will always be closest to my heart,” said Diegnan, adding, “The Kuberiet family possess a courage, selflessness, and a focus that is impossible to describe. They have dedicated themselves to the passage of this law so that no other family will ever have to suffer the unthinkable tragedy that befell on them.”
Guadagno, who presented the Kuberiet family with the signed legislation, said, “Assemblyman [Diegnan] and all of the sponsors of the bill should be applauded for making sure that Abigail’s life is not forgotten … all of South Plainfield should be applauded for not forgetting what happened here a decade ago,” said Guadagno, adding that the unanimous passage of the bill is a testament of its importance. “No opposition on either side of the aisle says everything you need to know about how important this bill is …”
In addition to Diegnan and Guadagno, Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, State Senator Peter J. Barnes III, and Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director Carol Bellante along with South Plainfield Borough officials were among those who attended the March 8 bill presentation.
“My family and I would like to thank the Lt. Governor as well as Governor Christie for signing [‘Abigail’s Law’] but most of all we would like to thank Assemblyman Diegnan who was steadfast in his commitment to my family, the legislation and to Abigail’s memory,” Christopher Kuberiet said. “I would also like to thank the Borough of South Plainfield for all the support they have provided my family.”
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