A bill introduced in Congress aims to provide quicker notifications of violations committed by school bus drivers, in response to a crash in New Jersey in May that killed a student and a teacher.
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) announced a federal bipartisan bill that would require automatic notifications of driver violations to school districts and school bus companies within 24 hours, so they can take immediate action to keep unsafe drivers off the road. The Miranda Vargas School Bus Driver Red Flag Act, or “Miranda’s Law,” is intended to bolster the proposed SECURES Act, which seeks to make lap-shoulder seat belts the nationwide standard for school buses.
The Miranda’s Law congressional bill requires the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to implement a nationwide employer notification service (ENS) for buses. Current federal regulations require employers of school bus drivers to check their employees’ driving history records annually. An ENS would give employers real-time, automatic notifications when a bus driver’s license status changes because of a moving violation conviction, crash, license suspension, or other triggering event.
Although some states have self-reporting requirement for drivers, Gottheimer said during the press conference that many drivers don’t comply, and it could be 364 days before the school district or school bus company finds out about any violations. The bill would make the employer notification service mandatory for all school bus drivers in the U.S. Once ENS is implemented, the bill would require any employer of school bus drivers to participate in the service. Miranda’s Law would also require states to use the ENS to qualify for federal aid highway funds.
The SECURES Act and Miranda’s Law follow the May 17 school bus crash in Mount Olive, New Jersey, that killed 10-year-old Miranda Vargas and teacher Jennifer Williamson-Kennedy.
Seventeen states currently have a voluntary form of the ENS in place, according to the news release from Gottheimer’s office.