On Wednesday, May 3, school districts across New Jersey are being asked to participate in a survey pertaining to motorists illegally passing school buses. In a memo sent to school administrators last month, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) encouraged districts to take part in the voluntary nationwide survey.

The survey, sponsored by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, is designed to lead to improved safety measures, by focusing on the time when children are getting on and off buses, when they are most vulnerable to accidents.

Data will be collected on a state-designated representative school day. On May 3, districts are asked to have their bus drivers, or their contracted bus drivers, use the survey form to report any instances of motorists illegally passing school buses. Drivers who have no illegal passes should also submit the form.

Survey results should be reported no later than May 31, 2017. For further information, please see the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services website.

School Bus Camera Legislation Proposed

New Jersey is one of several states that has recently contemplated measures aimed at countering the dangerous act of illegally passing school buses. In the current and previous legislative sessions, bills have been introduced in the state Senate and General Assembly that would authorize the installation of video cameras on the exterior of school buses, that would be used to capture motorists illegally passing the vehicles. The NJSBA has received inquiries from several school districts regarding the status of this legislation, its likelihood of final passage, and whether districts must wait for the bill to become law before they can utilize this technology on their school bus fleets.

This past January, the full Senate approved S-211, which would authorize the installation of “school bus video monitoring systems” that would produce recorded images of cars illegally passing school buses that could be used as evidence to impose fines on motorists. That measure would codify into state statute how such violations would be captured, reviewed and adjudicated by school districts and their law enforcement partners. The bill also increases the fine drivers could face when caught illegally passing a school bus by a video monitoring system, but stipulates that no motor vehicle points will be issued under such circumstances. The current penalties (fines, potential imprisonment or community service, and motor vehicle points) that may be imposed on violators captured by a law enforcement officer would remain unchanged.

After clearing the Senate, the bill was referred to the Assembly Education Committee where it joins its lower house counterpart, A-3798, which has yet to receive consideration this session. If and when it clears the full Assembly, it will head to the governor who will decide whether to sign it into law, issue an absolute veto, or return it to the Legislature with recommended changes through his conditional veto authority.

While S-211/A-3798 would make the implementation of a school bus monitoring system permissive for school districts, a separate proposal would go a step further and require video cameras to be installed on all school buses. That measure, S-2827/A-3512, has yet to receive legislative committee consideration.

While S-211 would establish a formal legal and procedural framework for school bus monitoring systems, local boards of education do not necessarily need to wait for explicit statutory authorization before placing cameras on the exterior of school buses. As S-211 and other similar pieces of legislation have been introduced and considered by the Legislature, several school districts have already chosen to install video cameras on the exterior of their school buses in an attempt to crack down on motorists that violate the law. While not a widespread practice at this point, the NJSBA is aware of at least three towns – Jefferson Township, Denville, and Branchburg – that have begun utilizing video enforcement technology on their school buses. Boards of education interested in installing exterior school bus cameras should consult with their local law enforcement agencies to discuss the potential establishment of a video enforcement program.