Legislation is advancing that’s designed to give extra protection to disabled individuals being transported by school buses in the Garden state.

The measure requires school bus drivers to use flashing lights and other safety equipment when a school bus is stopped to drop off or pick up a person who has a developmental disability. Other motorists would be required to stop their vehicles at a distance of at least 25 feet from a school bus that has activated its flashing lights, pursuant to the provisions of the bill. The flashing lights would be activated while the bus is stopped to drop off or pick up a person, and remain activated until a child or person who has a developmental disability has reached a place of safety.

“This is about keeping people safe and avoiding any potential dangerous situations than can lead to accidents or worse,” says Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, one of the prime sponsors of the bill, “we have all probably witnessed instances when drivers have sped past a stopped school bus. This bill hopes to deter this risky behavior. If common sense won’t do it, then maybe the threat of a fine and imprisonment will.”

Another prime sponsor, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, says “individuals with disabilities may require additional assistance when leaving or getting on a bus. We should make sure they are able to do it safely without fear of cars whizzing by - this bill helps avoid potential incidents by requiring the use of safety equipment, and punishing drivers who fail to adhere to the safety precautions.”

Drivers who pass a school bus transporting persons with developmental disabilities in a manner that violates the law would  be subject to the same penalties that apply currently to drivers passing school buses transporting students to and from school. Those penalties are a fine of not less than a hundred dollars, imprisonment for not more than 15 days or community service for 15 days in such form and on such terms as the court shall deem appropriate.

The measure has been unanimously approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and now heads to the full Assembly for final consideration.