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  • By Monica D. Palestis, Esq.

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY BILLS

Given the recent tragedies involving school buses, the New Jersey legislature has enacted two laws to increase the safety of students and staff on school buses. These laws are currently in effect.


The first law, S-2848/A4346 (P.L. 2018, c. 151), addresses bus driver fitness. This law requires that bus drivers, who are renewing a license, or applicants, who are seeking to acquire either a passenger endorsement or a school bus endorsement for a commercial driver’s license, to submit proof of physical fitness in the form of a medical examination and accompanying certificate completed by a Medical Examiner listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners that is maintained by the National Registry of Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The certification must include the Medical Examiner’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners number. Every holder of such a license must also furnish to the chief school administrator evidence of continuing physical fitness at the time of application renewal or such other time as the chief school administrator requires.


This law has special provisions for drivers who are 70 years or older and transporting children. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:39-1 et seq., any driver who is 70 years or older must annually furnish to the chief school administrator satisfactory evidence of continuing physical fitness in the form of medical examination and accompanying medical certificate completed by a Medical Examiner listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. As to those drivers aged 75 or older, the same rule applies except that those drivers must submit the proof every six months

For each of the provisions cited above, all drivers who are transporting students must, in addition to the medical exams noted above, also submit to a medical exam that includes cognitive, hearing and visual acuity tests that are in accordance with the provisions of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, 49 U.S.C. § 113.

The second law, A-4345/S-2853 (P.L. 2018, c.160), codifies an existing law requiring permanent and substitute school bus drivers and school bus aides to be provided with defensive driving techniques and railroad crossing procedures, as well as a twice yearly (once at the beginning of the year and once during the second semester) safety training program that at a minimum includes the following:


1. student management and discipline;

2. school bus accident and emergency procedures;

3. conducting school bus emergency exit drills;

4. loading and unloading procedures;

5. school bus stop loading zone safety;

6. inspecting the school vehicle for students left on board at the end of a route; and

7. the use of a student’s education records, including the employee’s responsibility to ensure the privacy of the student and the student’s records, if applicable.


The last law, S-2850/A-4344 (P.L. 2018, c. 152) requires that once a board of education receives notification from the Department of Education that a school bus driver employed by the board has had his/her bus driver’s license suspended or revoked, the board must, within 24 hours (one business day) provide a statement to the Department of Education verifying that the school bus driver no longer operates a school bus.


This Alert provides information about the current developments in New Jersey education law. It is necessarily general and not intended as legal advice or a substitute for legal advice. Questions about individual issues should be addressed to the attorney of your choice. Contact Anthony P. Sciarrillo of Sciarrillo Cornell at edlawgroup@sciarrillolaw.com


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