A Democratic bill to ensure safety of students transported on school buses has been approved by the assembly.
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Reed Gusciora, Raj Mukherji, Jamel Holley, Daniel R. Benson, Joe Danielsen, Benjie Wimberly and Joann Downey to prevent individuals who have had their driving privileges suspended or revoked from operating a school bus was recently approved by the full Assembly.
“Individuals who’ve had their driving privileges suspended or revoked have no business being on the road, never mind transporting children to school,” said Lagana (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Losing your driving privileges is no small infraction. This will keep irresponsible individuals from transporting school children, and ensure the safety of students who depend on school bus transportation.”
“The road is already a dangerous place. Parents should be assured that the person charged with safely transporting their children to and from school is qualified to do so,” said Gusciora (D-Hunterdon, Mercer). “This ensures that those individuals who knowingly drive a school bus despite not being allowed to drive are punished and are never allowed behind the wheel of a school bus.”
The bill (A597) would establish that a person who knowingly operates a school bus transporting one or more students while his or her driving privileges have been suspended or revoked is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. A crime of the fourth degree is ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
The bill also would establish that a person knowingly operating a school bus while his or her driving privileges have been suspended or revoked who is involved in an accident resulting in bodily injury to another person is guilty of a crime of the third degree. Such a crime ordinarily is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years or a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
Under the bill, the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission would be required to revoke for life the passenger and school bus endorsements on the commercial driver’s license of a person convicted of either offense. Lastly, the bill specifies that a person convicted of either offense is permanently disqualified from employment as a school bus driver.
“Operating a school bus when your driving privileges have been revoked is incredibly irresponsible. This bill would make it a crime,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Having a clean driving record is imperative to this job. Anyone willing to jeopardize the lives of New Jersey children by lying about their credentials should not only be punished but banned from this line of work.”
“Losing your driving privileges demonstrates poor judgement. Anyone who has displayed such carelessness cannot and should not be entrusted with the safety of our students,” said Holley (D-Union). “This not only makes it a crime to operate a school bus with a suspended or revoked licensed, but ensures the person at fault is never allowed to operate a school bus ever again.”
“Parents should be assured that the person transporting their sons and daughters to and from school each day respects the rules of the road,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. “A driver who has demonstrated disregard for those rules should not have such an immense responsibility.”
“Every parent’s worst nightmare is getting a call that their child was in a bus accident and was seriously injured,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset), vice-chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. “Prohibiting those who have had their driving privileges revoked or suspended from driving a school bus is about keeping New Jersey’s kids safe and giving parents some peace of mind.”
“As a father, like all parents in New Jersey, I expect every possible precaution to be taken in order to protect my children,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen / Passaic). “No one who cannot legally drive a car in New Jersey should ever get behind the wheel of a school bus.”
“Our most valuable, most precious resource in New Jersey is our children,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “A bus driver who has a record of irresponsible driving cannot be put in charge of getting them to and from school.”
The bill gained unanimous approval in the Assembly on Sept. 29, and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.