The bipartisan Miranda Vargas School Bus Driver Red Flag Act (Miranda’s Law) was formally introduced in the House of Representatives to ensure real-time driver background checks and that states receive the information in a timelier fashion.
The bipartisan Miranda Law 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.
It would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to create an employer notification service, or ENS, and make it mandatory for all school bus drivers across the nation. 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 highway funds.
When a school bus driver has any driving infraction beyond a parking ticket, Miranda’s Law would send an alert to school districts or school bus companies within 24 hours.
An ENS, the bill states, gives 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.
Last May, a crash involving a Paramus Board of Education school bus that was transporting students from East Brook Middle School during a field trip killed 10-year-old Miranda Vargas and teacher Jennifer Williamson-Kennedy. The incident, allegedly caused when the school bus driver attempted a U-turn across multiple lanes of traffic on Route 80, shined a spotlight on what the legislators called flaws in school bus driver oversight.
The driver of the bus was found to have had more than 14 license suspensions at the time of the crash.
The group of legislators who introduced Miranda’s Law on May 23 said the issue is not limited to New Jersey. Instead, lack of oversight is occurring nationwide, they argue. The National Transportation Safety Board also found a lack of driver oversight caused fatal school bus crashes in Baltimore and Chattanooga, Tennessee in December 2016.
The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Elise Stefanik (NY), Tom Reed and Thomas Suozzi (NY), Steve Cohen (TN), Dan Kildee (MI), Elijah Cummings (MD) and Albio Sires (NJ).
Current federal regulations require school districts and bus companies to check their employees’ driving history records annually. But if a driver fails to self-report a traffic violation or license suspension, it could be up to 364 days before a school district or school bus company receives that information.
The legislators said research has shown that only 50- to 80-percent of commercial drivers actually self-report violations. Suspended drivers across all vehicle types have a crash rate 14 times higher than other drivers.
“We must strengthen background checks on school bus drivers to protect our children from those, like the driver who drove Miranda’s bus, who have no place getting behind the wheel,” said Gottheimer. “We are here to help turn tragedy into hope for other children and families. I’m glad that Miranda’s father, Joevanny, will be joining me in Washington this spring to tell his story to members of Congress on why our communities so desperately need this school bus safety legislation. Miranda’s Law will help save lives, and there’s nothing partisan about that.”
Miranda’s Law builds off a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) pilot program to implement a robust nationwide employer notification service, with each state required to use the service. It’s cost-effective.
Following a feasibility study demonstrating that ENS would pay back at 15:1 and pay for itself in less than a year, DOT ran a pilot program in Colorado and Minnesota, which demonstrated that “a nationwide employer notification service was needed and could have significant safety and monetary benefits for motor carriers.”
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