(TRENTON) - The Assembly Education Committee on Monday released legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) to create a pilot program that would allow schools and municipalities to use monitoring systems to help with enforcement of individuals who break the law by passing school buses that are stopped to pick up or drop off students, as well as enhance penalties for this violation.
"I'm sure we have all at some point witnessed an impatient driver rush past a school bus that has stopped to either pick or drop off a child. These drivers are not only breaking the law, they are endangering the lives of these children," said Singleton. "Installing these monitoring systems on school buses and toughening the penalties can help curb such reckless behavior."
The bill (A-2150) establishes a five-year pilot program under which municipalities and school districts that own, operate or otherwise provide Type I or Type II school buses to transport students may contract with private vendors to install, operate and maintain school bus monitoring systems on their school buses to assist in the enforcement of current law which prohibits motor vehicles from passing a school bus while it is stopped to pick up or discharge students.
Under the bill, alleged violations captured by a monitoring system under the pilot program must be compiled into an evidence file and forwarded to the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality. If law enforcement determines that a violation has occurred, a summons would be issued.
The bill also amends current law to upgrade the penalties for the unlawful passing of a school bus. Currently, a first time offender is subject to a fine of $100, and up to 15 days of imprisonment or community service. Under the bill, violators would be subject to a fine of no less than $300 or more than $500.
All fine moneys and penalties collected by the court must be paid to the financial officer of the municipality where the violation occurred and must be used by the municipality for its general municipal and school district purposes, including efforts to improve the monitoring and enforcement of the unlawful passing of a school bus through the utilization of school bus monitoring systems and the provision of associated public education safety programs.
Lastly, the bill requires the chief administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission, in consultation with the Commissioner of Education and municipalities and school districts that participate in the pilot program, to submit an interim report no later than 30 months after the start of the program, and a final report no later than 60 days after the conclusion of the program.
"Last year a video emerged of a driver in Cleveland who actually drove on the sidewalk, past a day care, to avoid waiting for a bus carrying handicapped children. Even worse, she had apparently done it more than once," said Singleton. "The video was shot by the bus driver who was tired of the driver's brazen disregard for the law and the safety of those children. While this may have been an extreme case, the fact is people do this all the time. School buses should be equipped with the sort of technology that can help with enforcement and discourage this dangerous and unlawful behavior."