What to Know
- The deadly bus accident involving East Brook students and teachers on a field trip is sparking a movement to upgrade seat belts
- New Jersey law already requires all school buses to have seat belts, but a congressman wants the belts to be the three-point shoulder belts
- The proposed legislation would also improve reporter when bus drivers get moving violation tickets
The New Jersey bus crash that killed a teacher and a 10-year-old student is sparking a movement to upgrade seat belts.
The Route 80 accident two weeks ago killed teacher Jennifer Williamson-Kennedy and student Miranda Vargas; the 77-year-old driver, Hudy Muldrow Sr., was charged with two counts of death by auto and made his first appearance in a Morristown court Friday.
But the safety of students is still an open question; they were all wearing seat belts, yet two passengers were killed. Now New Jersey congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) says he has lined up bipartisan support for a bill that could force the government to install three-point shoulder belts on school buses everywhere, like the ones required in passenger cars and trucks.
"Properly worn lap and shoulder belts provide the highest level of protections for school bus passengers in all crash scenarios," Gottheimer said, quoting from the NTSB last week.
Under New Jersey law, school buses have to have seat belts, but they are not the three-point shoulder belts.
East Brook Middle School sixth-grader James Kalmad admitted that not everyone on the bus always buckled up, or they would unbuckle themselves halfway through the ride.
Now, he says he always buckles up in his parents' car and on the school bus. His mother, Susan Kalman, is all in favor of better seat belts.
"Why do the lap belt? Just go to the safest thing," she said.
Muldrow, who's scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday, had a checkered driving record. Gottheimer's proposed legislation would also improve reporting when bus drivers get moving violation tickets -- something that Paramus schools superintendent Michele Robinson said her school system did not get when they checked him.
"The report we received... indicated he was a driver in good standing, eligible to drive a school bus," she said.
Robsinon said the district is already exploring how better to ensure they have up to date driving records for their bus drivers, and hope to have something in the upcoming days.