Personal Injury Blog

New School Bus Seatbelt Legislation Aimed At Protecting Students Signed Into Law

New Jersey children riding to school on a bus will now be a little safer because of new three-point seat belt legislation recently signed into law

Across the nation, millions of children rely on school buses to take them to school and back home each day. According to the American School Bus Council, 25 million children use a school bus every day. And generally, children are safer on a school bus than they are in a regular vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children are 70 times more likely to arrive to school safely when they take the school bus. But this doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen.

A tragic accident

The need for better safety measures on our school buses was brought to light this past school year following a tragic accident involving a Paramus East Brook Middle School bus in which a teacher and a student were killed. Last May, a school bus carrying 38 students and 7 adults collided with a dump truck on a highway on its way to a Waterloo Village field trip. The accident injured nearly everyone on the bus in one way or another and tragically killed 51-year old teacher Jennifer Williamson and 10-year old student Miranda Vargas. One of the students injured in the accident, Pete Caminiti III, and his father, Pete Caminiti Jr. reached out to their family friend, New Jersey state Senator Joseph Lagana after the accident about why school buses were equipped with lap-only seat belts when our own vehicles are all equipped with three-point lap and shoulder belts, and a new bill was formed to change school bus seat legislation.

School bus seat belt laws

School buses are designed to be naturally safer for children and other passengers than regular vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injuries. School buses use compartmentalization to protect passengers using closely spaced seats and tall, energy-absorbing seat backs. But many states are now debating adding additional safety measures to school buses by requiring seat belts. Currently only eight states, including New Jersey, require the use of seatbelts in any form on school buses. The other seven states are Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, and Texas. Of the eight states requiring seat belts on school buses, only three states require the seat belts to be three-point lap and shoulder belts: California, Nevada, and now New Jersey.

New Jersey already required school buses to be equipped with lap seat belts, but the new legislation introduced by State Senator Samuel Thompson and signed into law by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in August upgrades the lap-only seat belt requirement to require new school buses to include three-point lap and shoulder seat belts for every seat on the bus. Senator Thompson has proposed the bill since 2013, but it never went to a vote of the Senate or Assembly While acknowledging we will never know for sure if a three-point seat belt would have spared the lives of Miranda Vargas and Jennifer Williamson, Governor Murphy said, “every child and every educator and adult chaperone deserves our best effort to protect their safety and the best possible chance of emerging unharmed in the unfortunate event of a school bus accident.”

Dedicated Morristown personal injury lawyers advocate for the rights of your family to full and fair compensation when you or someone you love are injured in an accident

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident because of the negligence of someone else, you need a seasoned personal injury attorney who is determined to obtain the compensation you deserve. The accomplished New Jersey personal injury attorneys at Leonard Legal Group, LLC have more than 25 years of experience obtaining results for victims who have been injured in school bus and other motor vehicle accidents. Our reputation as compassionate lawyers who are tough on negligent parties has been earned by our relentless pursuit of justice for our clients. Call us today at 973-984-1414 or contact us online to schedule your initial consultation with one of our attorneys. Our office is conveniently located in Morristown and we serve surrounding areas as well.