WASHINGTON, D.C. — Family members of a student killed in a New Jersey school bus crash in 2018 are advocating for legislation that would require lap-shoulder belts on school buses and school bus driver background checks.
On Wednesday, the father (Joevanny Vargas), twin sister, and grandfather of Miranda Vargas, 10, who was killed in a school bus crash in Mount Olive, New Jersey, on May 17, went door-to-door on Capitol Hill with U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer to gather support for bipartisan school bus safety legislation, according to a news release from Gottheimer’s office.
The Vargas family and Gottheimer met with key members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, including Chairman Peter DeFazio of Oregon and New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne, Tom Malinowski, and Albio Sires of New Jersey, in addition to co-sponsor Congressman Tom Reed from New York, to discuss Gottheimer’s two school bus safety bills: Miranda’s Law and the SECURES Act.
Miranda’s Law, named for Miranda Vargas, requires real-time background checks, so that when a school bus driver has any driving infraction beyond a parking ticket, the school district or school bus company will receive an alert about that infraction from the U.S. Department of Transportation within 24 hours. As SBF previously reported, the bill was introduced in June 2018, with the intention of bolstering the proposed SECURES Act.
The SECURES Act requires seat belts on all school buses regardless of gross vehicle weight rating, makes lap-shoulder seat belts the national standard, and encourages innovative approaches to make sure students wear the seat belts while on school buses.
“We are here to help turn tragedy into hope for other children and families,” Gottheimer said. “I am so grateful that Joevanny and his family came down to Washington so that they could tell their story to members of Congress on why our communities so desperately need this bipartisan legislation. Miranda’s Law and the SECURES Act will help save lives. And there’s nothing partisan about that.”
As previously reported, the bus driver involved in the crash, Hudy Muldrow Sr., age 77 at the time of the crash, was apparently attempting to make a U-turn and collided with a dump truck. Muldrow Sr. was indicted in April. In addition to the initial two counts of reckless vehicular homicide, the indictment also charges Muldrow, who drove for Paramus Public Schools, with 25 counts of assault by auto and 16 additional counts of assault by auto as a disorderly persons offense. After the crash it came to light that Muldrow Sr. had received several license suspensions and tickets between 1975 and 2017. One was for an improper lane change.