We put our children on school buses trusting their safety is prioritized above all else – above taking a wrong turn or running late. Unfortunately, our state learned in the cruelest way possible last spring that safety is not guaranteed. You'll recall this past May that a school bus was involved in a deadly accident on I-80 in Paramus, killing a 10-year-old student and a teacher, and injuring many more. Yesterday, Governor Phil Murphy signed four new laws aimed at preventing similar tragedies in the future.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident or in another personal injury incident caused by someone else's negligence, please call the experienced, skilled attorneys at Eisbrouch Marsh at 201-342-5545. Our law firm has offices in Hackensack and Newark.
What do the New Laws Include?
On December 17, 2018, the Governor enacted new laws that include the following:
- Mandatory safety training for school bus drivers twice a year
- The Department of Education must notify state authorities if and when a school bus driver's license is suspended or revoked
- Bus driver must adhere to all federal regulations
- Bus drivers over age 70 must submit a doctor's report to prove physical fitness once per year
- Bus drivers 75 and older must submit a doctor's report twice a year
The school bus driver in the fatal accident this past May had his driver's license suspended 14 times in the past, according to the New Jersey Herald. The most recent suspension occurred in December, 2017. According to a New Jersey State Police affidavit, the driver attempted an illegal U-turn on I-80 and was hit by an oncoming dump truck. In court recently, the driver has denied making an illegal U-turn. What we know for sure is that two people were killed, including a young girl. These irrevocable losses will remain and continue to affect the families involved. We can only hope that the new legislation helps to prevent similar tragedies.
How Motorists Can Ensure Student Safety at Bus Stops
School bus crashes are horrific, but they do tend to be the exception. Still, we should do everything we can to get the safest drivers behind the wheel, which hopefully these laws will do. Many school bus drivers are responsible motorists with clean driving records. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, riding the school bus is actually one of the safest ways your child can get to school.
Even if the bus driver is doing everything right, it's important to recognize that other motorists can injure children boarding and unloading at school bus stops. Under New Jersey state law, you must:
- Stop at least 25 feet from a school bus that has turned on its red, flashing lights. This applies regardless of which direction you are traveling in – the same or opposite of the bus. It applies to two-lane highways and any road that has lanes with no physical barrier between them. This applies whenever the red lights come on and whether you see children actively boarding/de-boarding the bus. Do not proceed until the lights are turned off and the bus has had a chance to pull away.
- You must stop at least 25 feet away if you are on a divided highway AND on the same side of the barrier as the bus.
- If you are on the opposite side of a divided highway, traveling the opposite direction of the bus with red flashing lights, you must slow down to 10 MPH until you are completely past the bus. This will better ensure the safety of children who may cross over onto your side of the divided road.
Bus stops can be dangerous locations for children and adults waiting with them. Over the past three decades, 414 children have been killed while in the process of getting picked up or dropped off by school buses. Teach your child that the bus stop is not a place to roughhouse or play, and that they should stay a safe distance away from the edge of the road.
Experienced Legal Advocates on Your Family's Side
If you or your family member has been injured in a crash caused by someone else, or if you lost a loved one to a deadly accident, you may have a claim to pursue justice and compensation. For a complimentary consultation, please call our experienced motor vehicle accident lawyers at Eisbrouch Marsh, at 201-342-5545. With offices in Newark and Hackensack, our law firm proudly advocates on behalf of people from throughout the state of New Jersey.