After Route 80 crash, are seat belts really the issue?
A legislative effort getting attention after the horrific and completely avoidable school bus crash on 80 is about seat belts. State Sen. Samuel Thompson has been on a quest for several years to require three-point seat belts with a shoulder harness on New Jersey school buses and not just lap belts.
The existing lap belts no doubt saved lives. Would three-point belts have spared 10-year-old old Miranda Vargas and 51-year-old Jennifer Williams Kennedy? Maybe. And Thompson’s legislation certainly needs to be considered. But isn’t it better to prevent a crash than to survive one?
This particular accident was so completely avoidable that you aren’t serving constituents if you don’t take a hard look at several things.
First, is it proper that our system allows someone who had eight speeding tickets and a license suspended 14 times to hold the necessary credentials to operate a school bus? Granted those speeding tickets were spread out over a long period of time and many of those suspensions were for things like unpaid parking tickets. Yet they speak to a certain lack of responsibility.
Second, you need to look at pay. The per hour rate for school bus drivers has been slashed to levels that don't attract the best of drivers looking for higher pay and full time hours. What the pay and hours do attract is retirees.
Which brings up my third point. The elephant in the room needs to be talked about openly and honestly. Should a 77-year-old be driving a school bus with your children on board? Some people in their late 70s and even 80s are still sharp and haven't lost their skills or reaction time. Others have diminished through no fault of their own. The fact you can maintain your CDL endorsement to drive a school bus with absolutely no road re-testing year after year is shocking to many. Only a medical form is necessary. Your blood pressure and eyesight may be great. Your road skills and reaction time may be a different story.
Through both his son and his pastor we heard the driver Hudy Muldrow Sr. express his position that he did nothing wrong on the highway that day. The video shows he's either lying or was completely unaware of his situation and actions. Of the two the latter is even more concerning.
Go ahead and put all the three-point harness seat belts you can afford in our school buses. But make sure the person at the wheel is capable enough to not kill your child.
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