For decades, public-school buses did not have passenger seat belts. Over the years, concerned parents and traffic accident experts advocated for increased bus safety, including seatbelts. Some school districts and bus services now have safety-belt-equipped buses, while many others do not. In 2018, New Jersey passed a law requiring seat belts on newer school buses. A U.S. congressman representing New Jersey is sponsoring a bill that would make seat belts mandatory on school buses everywhere in the country.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer introduced the bill — known as “Miranda’s Law” — in the wake of a terrible school bus accident that happened in New Jersey in 2018. A bus full of children collided with a large truck. One of the casualties was 10-year-old Miranda Vargas, who was killed in the crash. The proposed legislation would require a three-point harness (lap and shoulder belt) for each passenger seat on every public-school bus in the country. The bill also contains provisions that would encourage students to properly wear their seat belts at all times while riding on the bus.
The proposed law imposes liability for failing to provide and use proper seatbelts on school buses. The law would hold school districts, bus companies and individual drivers liable for a child’s injuries if the bus was not properly equipped and monitored for seat belt usage. The law would impose stiff fines and other penalties for various types of non-compliance.
The path to a nationwide mandatory school bus seatbelt law will likely have obstacles. There might be opposition based on whether such safety efforts warrant federal intervention. There will most certainly be disagreement regarding the scope of the laws and how the costs will be absorbed. In addition, every new government program encounters implementation problems. Therefore, it will likely be a while before all school buses are equipped with passenger seat belts.
In the meantime, there is already a legal remedy in New Jersey. Current state law requires that all school buses manufactured after February 21, 2019 be fully equipped with three-point lap and shoulder seat belts or other child restraint systems that conform with federal standards. A school district, bus company or other school bus operator that fails to adhere to the law can found negligent and held liable to pay damages for any resulting injuries to bus passengers.
Ridgewood-based Seigel Law is one of the top personal injury law firms in the Northern New Jersey and New York City area. Our legal team works diligently on each case to help our clients get the maximum compensation available for their injuries and other losses. If you or a family member have been injured in a bus or automobile accident, feel free to call 201-444-4000 or contact us online for a consultation.