NEWARK, N.J. — As part of National School Bus Safety Week, nearly 100 advocates across the state are pushing for stop-arm camera legislation.
This year’s theme for National School Bus Safety Week is “#Stop on Red.” Along with the Traffic Safety Coalition (TSC), New Jersey education associations, school systems, municipalities, and police departments are urging Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and other lawmakers to take action on two school bus stop-arm camera bills by immediately bringing them to a full Assembly floor vote.
If action is not taken on the bills by the end of the year, they could die, due to the fact that the state Legislature’s most recent two-year term began in January 2016, and all unfinished business expires at the end of the second year of a term.
A-3798 authorizes the use of school bus stop-arm cameras to capture video of motorists who illegally pass stopped buses. Companion bill S-211 allows school districts to contract with private vendors to install, operate, and maintain stop-arm violation monitoring systems on school buses.
Video from these incidents would then be reviewed by local police, and a citation would be issued to the driver who committed the violation.
S-211 passed the Senate by a 30-1 vote in January 2017, and A-3798 passed the Assembly Education and Appropriations committees unanimously as of June.
“Illegal school bus passing is a real problem in New Jersey. Police officers issued more than 1,600 violation notices to drivers who failed to stop for a school bus last year,” wrote advocates in a letter to Prieto. “That number represents 1,600 times New Jersey schoolchildren were put in harm’s way and the reality is that number is significantly higher because these violations represent only those reported by school bus drivers or seen by police officers.”
A nationwide survey conducted this year by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services counted nearly 80,000 motorists illegally passing school buses in one day.
Additionally, in January 2017, a New Jersey high school student was seriously injured after being hit by a car while crossing a highway to board her bus, which was stopped with its stop arm extended.
School bus drivers, school boards and administration, public health officials, and traffic safety advocates are asking Prieto to push for the legislation, according to TSC, noting, “We’ve gone thru this [legislative] process and we have a window to move this legislation. Bring this bill to a vote so the Governor can sign it into law and keep New Jersey schoolchildren safe for the upcoming school year.”
The bills have been endorsed by parents, teachers, principals, school boards, superintendents, and medical professionals from around the state, including from the New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Parent Teacher Association, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, and the School Transportation Supervisors of New Jersey.
The letter sent on Monday to Prieto by the Traffic Safety Coalition partners can be found here.