Riding the bus to school finally became safer in New Jersey. Under a new law recently signed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, at the end of six months, all school buses manufactured for use in New Jersey must include three-point seat belts for all passengers to protect them in the event of an accident.
The new law requires stricter safety restraints than the 1992 school bus seat belt law, which only required lap belts be installed in new school buses. All newly manufactured buses will be equipped with three-point belts that cross the passenger’s laps and shoulders.
This newly passed legislation comes after a tragic fatal school bus crash in late Spring on Route 80 in Mt. Olive. On May 17, 2018, a school bus attempted to make a u-turn by crossing over three lanes of traffic as it tried to enter an emergency traffic lane. A dump truck collided with the turning bus which overturned and was torn apart. An elementary school teacher and ten-year-old student were fatally injured in the accident. The driver has been charged with second degree reckless vehicular homicide. Later in the summer, overturned buses on the New Jersey turnpike near Cherry Hill and East Brunswick raised additional concerns about school bus safety in the state.
State Senator Sam Thompson (R-Middlesex) has long been an advocate for stronger seatbelt safety legislation. Following the Mt. Olive fatal accident, his previously drafted mandatory bus school bus seat belt legislation began to gain momentum in the New Jersey State Senate. After receiving bipartisan support, Thompson’s legislation was passed and signed into law by Governor Murphy last month. California and Nevada have similar laws already on the books.
The Paramus school district already has purchased six new school buses equipped with the required three-point safety belts. According the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, one-third of New Jersey school buses currently in use are equipped with the three point seat belts. There are no plans to retrofit older school buses that only have lap belts.
Other statewide bus safety incentives include an increased number of school bus inspections. Each school bus will be examined by inspectors from the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles using a 150-point checklist that addresses a total of 180 safety concerns.
Some of the 180 safety items included in the Department of Motor Vehicles inspection include:
- Door buzzers
- Catalytic converters
- Driver employment records
- Back up alarms
- Gear shift indicators
- School bus warning equipment
- Steering and suspension
- Crash barriers
- Window wipers
- Service brakes
- Emergency exits and roof hatches
- Parking brakes
- Fuel lines/fuel tanks
- Rear lights
- Instruments (speedometer, ampmeter, voltmeter, temperature gauge)
Even just one violation on the safety inspection checklist would result in the bus being ineligible for use until the required repairs were made.
New Jersey Car Accident Lawyers Represent Individuals Injured in School Bus Accidents
If you or a loved one has been injured in a school bus crash, the experienced New Jersey car accident lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP are here to help. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call 732-777-0100 today or submit an online inquiry form. From our Red Bank, Toms River, and Edison offices, we represent clients in personal injury cases across New Jersey.