PARAMUS, N.J. — A school district here that had a school bus involved in a fatal crash in May is now planning to require lap-shoulder belts instead of lap-only belts on its school buses.
The Paramus Public Schools’ Board of Education voted on Monday to add three-point belts to an order of four buses it plans to purchase, at an additional cost of $5,300 a bus, according to NorthJersey.com. The board also plans to gather estimates to retrofit its bus fleet with lap-shoulder belts. The board president said at the meeting that every new bus that the district buys will have three-point belts, according to the news source.
The New Jersey School Boards Association told NorthJersey.com that the school district is likely the first to require the belts on its buses, going beyond state regulations. (New Jersey law requires lap-only belts, and the bus in the deadly crash on May 17 was reportedly equipped with lap-only belts.)
A student and a teacher were killed in the crash, and all 45 passengers aboard were injured, some seriously. The school bus driver who was involved in the crash, Hudy Muldrow Sr., has been charged with two counts of reckless vehicular homicide/death by auto.
The board of education’s vote comes as the state Assembly reviews Assembly Bill No. 4110, which would require three-point seat belts on all school buses. The bill passed the Assembly’s Transportation Committee on Monday. Assemblywoman Lisa Swain told the news source that in the wake of the crash “it is clear that our school bus safety standards must change.”
Also following the crash was a recommendation in May from the National Transportation Safety Board for states to mandate lap-shoulder belts, and for states such as New Jersey to upgrade their requirement for lap-only belts to lap-shoulder belts. That recommendation has spurred Congress to propose legislation that would require seat belts on school buses nationwide. U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) announce a bipartisan bill that calls for a new federal rulemaking on school bus seat belts.