WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives on July 1 passed key school bus safety provisions from Congressman Josh Gottheimer’s (NJ-5) bipartisan Secure Every Child Under the Right Equipment Standards (SECURES) Act. The provisions were included in H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act, the House’s surface transportation bill that passed this week with bipartisan support.
Gottheimer originally introduced the SECURES Act in response to the tragic 2018 Paramus bus crash on I-80 in Mount Olive Township — to require three-point lap-and-shoulder seatbelts on school buses nationwide.
The provisions passed this week require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to study the benefits of three-point seatbelts on school buses, determine if they are safer, and to determine whether to issue new regulations requiring seatbelts on school buses nationwide.
These provisions come following advocacy initiatives from Joevanny Vargas, the father of 10-year-old Miranda Vargas killed in the Paramus bus crash, as well as Miranda’s twin sister Madison Vargas, and Miranda’s grandfather Johnny — who visited Capitol Hill last Congress to meet with lawmakers, alongside Gottheimer, to gather support for bipartisan school bus safety legislation.
“With these critical provisions passing the House this week, we’re helping ensure that every child in America will be as safe as possible aboard a school bus, and we’re giving parents and families more peace of mind,” Gottheimer said. “I continue to be in awe of Joevanny and the Vargas family’s strength and fortitude over these past few years — since that tragedy — and I continue to be honored to join them in this fight to make our school buses safer for kids all across our country.”
When visiting Capitol Hill last Congress, the Vargas family and Gottheimer met with key members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee including Chairman Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Rep. Donald Payne (NJ-10), Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), and Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-9).
Gottheimer has also previously introduced Miranda’s Law, named in memory of Miranda Vargas, to ensure real-time background checks for school bus drivers. When a school bus driver has any driving infraction beyond a parking ticket, the school or school bus company would receive an alert about that infraction from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation within 24 hours.
Hudy Muldrow, 79, of Newark, NJ, admitted in court that on the morning of May 17, 2018, while acting as a school bus driver for the Paramus School District, he recklessly operated the Paramus school bus, according to Morris County Prosecutor Prosecutor’s office.
Muldrow also admitted in court that his reckless operation of the school bus caused the deaths of two of his passengers, Miranda Faith Vargas, a 5th grade student at East Brook Middle School and Jennifer Williamson, a teacher at East Brook Middle School. He caused injuries to five adult passengers and the driver of a dump truck. He further acknowledged that his conduct created a risk of harm to all 38 children who were passengers on his bus, prosecutor’s office siad.
Muldrow was sentenced in February 2020 to an aggregate term of 10 years in New Jersey State Prison and the first five years of this sentence are subject to the parole ineligibility provisions of the No Early Release Act, Prosecutor’s office said.
Muldrow pled guilty on Dec. 23, 2019 to two counts of second-degree reckless vehicular homicide, one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of children, five counts of fourth-degree assault by auto, and one count of disorderly persons assault by auto, prosecutor’s office said.