WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday passed school bus safety provisions as a part of H.R. 2, the House’s major infrastructure bill, the Moving Forward Act. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) originally introduced these provisions within his bipartisan Secure Every Child Under the Right Equipment Standards (SECURES) Act — legislation created in response to the tragic May 17, 2018 Paramus bus crash in Mount Olive Township — to require three-point lap-and-shoulder seatbelts on school buses nationwide.
The school bus safety provisions passed today in H.R. 2 require the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) to study the benefits of three-point seatbelts on school buses, determine if they are safer, and issue a new regulation requiring the seatbelts on school buses nationwide.
These provisions come following Joevanny Vargas — father of 10-year-old Miranda Vargas killed in the Paramus bus crash — Miranda’s twin sister Madison Vargas, and Miranda’s grandfather Johnny visiting Capitol Hill this Congress to meet with lawmakers, alongside Gottheimer, to gather support for bipartisan school bus safety legislation.
“With these new provisions passing the House today, we’re helping ensure that every child in America will be as safe as possible aboard a school bus and we’re giving parents 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, and I continue to be honored to join them in this fight to make our school buses safer for kids across our country.”
When visiting Capitol Hill earlier this 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), Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-9), in addition to SECURES Act cosponsor Rep. Tom Reed (NY-23).
Gottheimer has also introduced Miranda’s Law, named for Miranda Vargas, to ensure real-time background checks — so that when a school bus driver has any driving infraction beyond a parking ticket, the school or school bus company will 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 Fredric Knapp.
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, Knapp said.
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, Knapp said.