Attack on school bus: Time for NJ to get tougher on road rage?
HOWELL — A lawmaker wants to increase the fine for road rage.
State Sen. Robert Singer, R-Ocean, said he was moved by news of a man who attacked a school bus carrying young children.
Keith Hallbauer, 18, of Howell, turned himself in after video of the April 16 was released showing someone cursing at the bus driver after she made a sudden stop for a car while making a left turn onto Ramtown-Greenville Road.
The children, ages 5 to 8, watched and listened at the shouting.
"That was really mean," one of the student says in the video.
Howell police said a window was punched and shattered during the incident.
After reading New Jersey 101.5's news story about the incident, Singer, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee, said it struck him as the type of school bus safety issue that his committee often addresses.
"This is a terrible thing to happen," Singer said. "Road rage is a bad thing to happen let alone against a school bus with kids on it. In this case, someone threw a rock and broke a glass where kids were there and they were really traumatized by it."
Singer’s bill, S-3703, would create a new criminal mischief charge that would apply to road rage incidents involving school buses, regardless of the value of the damage caused.
Under his bill, damaging or impairing the operation of a school bus in the presence of a child during a road rage incident would be a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If a child is injured during the road rage incident, the offense would be a crime of the third degree, punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Under current law, criminal mischief is generally graded by the monetary value to the damaged property. If the damage amounts to $2,000 or more, it is a crime of the third degree, which is punishable by three to five years in prison. If the loss is more than $500 and less than $2,000, it is a crime of the fourth degree.
Singer said he sympathizes with commuters who get stuck behind a school bus, but child safety is the most important issue to him.
The bill was introduced by Singer on Monday and needs the approval of the Transportation Committee before it can be sent to the full Senate for a vote. Singer is confident the bill will move swiftly because of the current focus on school bus safety.
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