Fatal school bus driver’s record wasn’t bad enough to raise alarm
MORRISTOWN — The Paramus school bus driver who has been charged with killing a student and teacher in a crash had a driving record with eight speeding violations and 14 license suspensions. But his record was not bad enough to raise red flags and prevent him from driving school children.
The Paramus school district, which operates its own public school buses, requires its drivers to have a clean driving record for three years. But Hudy Muldrow Sr.'s recent infractions involved non-moving violations such as parking tickets.
Muldrow, 77, was driving one of three buses carrying fifth graders from the East Brook Middle School on a field trip last Thursday. All three buses missed exits for their destination, Waterloo Village. Investigators say Muldrow attempted to use an emergency median cut-through in order to make a U-turn on Route 80 when the bus was slammed from behind by a dump truck.
Police say Muldrow drove his bus almost perpendicular to traffic, quickly cutting across three lanes of the interstate. He was charged with two counts of second-degree vehicular homicide, or death by auto, for the deaths of Miranda Vargas, 10, and Jennifer Williamson, 51.
State Police say they interviewed Muldrow and other witnesses and that the accident was recorded on camera. Department of Transportation officials have viewed the video taken from a traffic camera but have not released it to the public.
Staying in jail
During a court appearance Friday in Morristown, a Morris County prosecutor said Muldrow is expected to face more charges as a result of the more than three dozen injuries caused by the crash.
Muldrow, who surrendered Thursday after being released from the hospital, will remain in custody until a detention hearing on Wednesday. Prosecutors are seeking to keep him locked up pending trial. He faces five to 10 years in prison if found guilty of the most serious charges.
Muldrow shuffled into court, shackled and wearing Morris County jail garb. He spoke quietly when responding to the judge's questions about whether he understood his rights and the charges against him.
Muldrow's attorney on Thursday called the crash a "truly tragic event."
"While we understand that this accident and its tragic consequences are a matter of considerable public interest, my client has faith in the criminal justice system and reiterates his presumption of innocence," Matthew Resig, of Freehold, said in a written statement.
MVC records obtained by New Jersey 101.5 show that Muldrow had 14 suspensions and eight speeding violations, the last one issued in 2001. Mulrdow's suspensions were mostly a result of parking tickets and administrative matters, not moving violations. His last suspension was at the end of 2017 over unpaid parking tickets. His last moving violation was in regards to a lane change in 2010.
The records do not differentiate if the violations were made while he was driving a bus or car.
Muldrow's license and CDL are both in good standing with no points.
Paramus schools superintendent Michele Robinson this week said that “nothing that was provided to the district by the state reflected that the driver had any moving violations." Robinson said that the district was told that Muldrow was a driver in good standing and eligible to operate a school bus.
Employment ads on the district website for back-up and substitute bus drivers require a "minimum of three years prior safe driving experience."
By comparison, another New Jersey school bus company reviews an applicant's five-year driving abstract, the maximum time period made available to them by the MVC.
A representative for Bridgewater-based Barker Bus told New Jersey 101.5 that parking tickets on a record are overlooked but not a DWI or speeding violation. If an applicant already has a CDL, Baker will also speak with their previous employer.
Paramus school officials have not returned requests seeking information about when Muldrow began working for the district.
The MVC in a September news release said that the agency inspects all New Jersey-registered school vehicles twice a year "utilizing a stringent 180-point checklist that ensures that only the safest vehicles are permitted to transport students."
That checklist includes having on file a copy of every driver's record as provided by the MVC. Otherwise, the transportation provider could fail the inspection.
The results are reported to the MVC for inclusion on its school bus inspection reporting system.