New School Bus Safety Laws for the New Year

Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed several school bus safety bills into law. Many were enacted in response to the tragic May 2018 I-80 school bus crash that claimed the lives of a Paramus middle school student, a teacher; and injured 43 others. The Paramus Board of Education is currently defending multiple Superior Court lawsuits brought by the students’ families.

“After the tragic school bus accident . . . earlier this year, it became clearer than ever that we must act to protect our children and educators through common sense school bus safety reforms,” Governor Murphy said in a press statement. “Thanks to our actions in partnership with the Legislature, parents will be able to send their children to school knowing that school buses and school bus drivers are being held to extremely high standards designed to ensure the safety of students.”

Below is a brief summary of the New Jersey’s new bus safety laws:

  • Senate Bill 2850mandates that when the Department of Education (DOE) 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 or contractor must verify to DOE that the driver in question is no longer operating a school bus.
  • Assembly Bill 4339requires school bus operations in the State to comply with federal regulations concerning safety, noise emissions, insurance, and drug testing, among other areas.
  • Assembly Bill 4345mandates that all permanent and substitute school bus drivers and aides undergo safety education programs twice every year.
  • Senate Bill 2848requires 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.

Several other school safety bills are currently awaiting action by Gov. Murphy. Both aim to improve bus safety. Assembly Bill 4224would order the Commissioner of Education to study the safety of school bus passengers involved in emergency situations, including, but not limited to, school bus accidents, such as head-on, rear-end, and side-impact collisions, and situations where the school bus may roll over. The study would include an evaluation of the statutory and regulatory requirements relating to school bus safety and the current policies, plans, and procedures implemented by school districts. 

Assembly Bill 2436requires that, beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, a school district transportation supervisor who is newly hired or who has less than 11 years of experience will be required, as a condition of employment, to provide evidence to the board of education of satisfactory completion of the School Transportation Supervisors Certification Program offered by the Center for Government Services at Rutgers University. 

Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Grouphas considerable experience counseling boards of education on all legal issues affecting them, including school bus safety issues. For more information about the new school safety laws or the legal issue involved, we encourage you to contact us at the link above.

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