Source: Chatham Patch
Following a fatal school bus crash in Mount Olive and new recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require all new school buses to have 3-point lap and shoulder seatbelts “for each seating position on the bus or other child restraint systems that are in conformity with applicable federal standards.”
The bill would affect any school bus built 180 days after its signed into law. Any existing school buses would be exempt from the requirements.
The May 17 school bus crash on Rt. 80 killed teacher Jennifer Williamson-Kennedy and 10-year-old student Miranda Faith Vargas, and injured 43 others, some critically. It is not clear if shoulder seat belts would have reduced the number of injuries, but several days after the crash, the NTSB released recommendations that all states require full three-point seatbelts.
The Assembly bill is sponsored by Yvonne Lopez, Daniel Benson, Lisa Swain and Chris Tully; the Senate version was introduced by Samuel Thompson. “After the crash which claimed the lives of two of my constituents and injured others, we knew we had to act swiftly to ensure that we can prevent further tragedy,” said Tully.
A student on board the Paramus bus at the time of the crash spoke publicly about the role of seatbelts, saying he didn’t think lap belts were enough. “Paramus, as good as it is, I think we need more safety precautions, like a three-point seat belt,” Peter Caminiti III said at a Paramus Board of Education meeting last week.
His father, Peter Caminiti II, said bus drivers should also take a more active role in buckling up. “Bus drivers should always check to make sure their passengers are buckled because a lot of students had faulty seat belts,” the elder Caminiti said. “As soon as they would latch, they were loose.”
Another student told local media outlets that the lap belts helped keep students strapped to their seats as the bus rolled over. “I heard a scraping sound and we toppled over onto the highway,” fifth-grader Theo Ancevski told the Daily Record. “A lot of people were screaming and they were hanging from their seat belts.”
Although the NTSB did gather information on the day of the crash, they are not currently conducting a formal investigation.