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Legislation on Track in NJ Would Create Statewide School Bus Safety Monitor

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New Jersey legislators are considering bills aimed at improving the safety of school bus transportation by putting an ombudsman in charge of assuring that drivers are qualified and that buses are kept in good condition.

The legislation, which is pending in both the Assembly and the Senate, is a bipartisan effort to reduce the number of school bus accidents. It comes in response to a 2018 school bus crash in Mt. Olive that killed a teacher and a student and injured 43 other children. The bus driver, whose attempted illegal U-turn on Interstate 80 caused the bus to be hit by a truck, later pleaded guilty to reckless vehicular homicide, endangering the welfare of children and other criminal charges.

The bills under consideration would create the position of ombudsman, charged with collecting and maintaining key information about school bus services. The ombudsman would:

  • Gather data on the qualifications of people who become school bus drivers and about the type and amount of training they receive
  • Collect information on safety inspections conducted by school bus operators
  • Create a publicly available database detailing traffic violations committed by school bus drivers, including fines and other penalties imposed on them or on their employers
  • Maintain a list of owners and operators of school bus companies, and any officers of those companies, that have been barred from bidding on school bus services contracts

The legislation also would expand the reasons that can justify school districts’ rejections of bus operators’ bids to provide services. These reasons could include the following conduct by the operator or its employees:

  • Failure to follow laws and regulations concerning the qualifications of drivers and the conduct of school bus inspections
  • Commission of a crime (like bribing a school district official) in an effort to get or keep a contract
  • Sexual abuse of a child or sexual misconduct with a child
  • Violation of a school bus services contract

Seigel Law is available to represent children who have been injured in school bus accidents or in other circumstances. If there was negligence or other wrongdoing on the part of the school bus driver or the operating company, we work tirelessly to win just compensation for the child. Call our Ridgewood office at 201-444-4000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

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