Four new bills were signed into law this week, making the Garden State an example for the rest of the country on school bus safety. The bills mirror federal legislation Gottheimer introduced earlier this year -- Miranda’s Law and the Secure Every Child Under the Right Equipment Standards (SECURES) Act of 2018 -- in the wake of the Paramus bus accident in May that tragically killed two people, including 10-year-old Miranda Vargas.
“I am proud of the bipartisan effort here in New Jersey to keep our children safe on the school bus, and it’s time we pass these common sense reforms at a national level. I applaud the tireless efforts of Senator Lagana, Assemblywoman Swain, and Assemblyman Tully in the legislature to get this bill across the finish line. I am also incredibly thankful for the work that Joevanny Vargas, Miranda's father, has done in the wake of his family's tragedy to make sure no family has to endure what his has,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer. “The evidence couldn’t be clearer: seat belts in school buses save lives. Congress should be doing everything in its power, including passing the SECURES Act, to help protect our children.”
The bills signed into law Monday require:
- school bus operations in the State to comply with federal regulations concerning safety, noise emissions, insurance, and drug testing, among other areas (A4339).
- all permanent and substitute school bus drivers and aides to undergo safety education programs twice every year (A4345).
- holders of a bus driver license to submit a medical report by a certified medical examiner. It also requires bus drivers over age 70 to submit proof of physical fitness every year, and those over age 75 to submit this proof every six months (S2848).
- that when the Department of Education notifies a board of education or a school bus contractor that a school bus driver has had their bus driver license suspended or revoked, the board of education or school bus contractor must verify to DOE that the driver in question no longer operates a bus for them (S2850).
In May, Gottheimer announced his bipartisan SECURES Act following the Paramus bus accident, which would require all school buses to have three-point lap-and-shoulder seat belts and encourages innovative measures to ensure that students are actually wearing their seat belts while on school buses. Gottheimer also introduced Miranda’s Law, a bill that will require automatic notifications of driver violations to school districts and school bus companies within 24 hours, so they can take immediate action to keep unsafe drivers off the road and away from our children.
Gottheimer prides himself on reaching across the aisle as a part of "the Problem Solvers Caucus ," which recently met with Trump Administration officials, Congressional leaders and advocacy organizations, and decided to support this bipartisan legislation.
Caucus Co-Chair Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23) said, “When Members of Congress reach across the aisle and work together the American people win. The current prison system is not fair for those released or the neighborhoods they return to. We are proud to overhaul the federal sentencing system to lower mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes – excluding dangerous heroin and fentanyl, expand job training and boost early-release opportunities.”
This month, the United States experienced three fatal accidents involving buses carrying school children. The spate of crashes during the holiday season heightens the urgent need for Congress to take action before the end of the year and pass the bipartisan SECURES Act of 2018.