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Fatal school bus accident prompts legislative effort

A New York congresswoman is one of the lawmakers sponsoring a bill that would stiffen the background check requirements for school bus drivers. The Miranda Vargas School Bus Driver Red Flag Act is named after a 10-year-old girl who was killed in a deadly school bus accident in May 2018. Republican Elise Stefanik, who represents New York's 21st congressional district, says that parents should not have to worry about safety when they drop their children off at school bus stops.

Under current federal regulations, school districts must run annual background checks on school bus drivers. The proposed bill would introduce real-time background checks that would notify schools within 24 hours when a driver is cited for any traffic violation other than a parking ticket. The 77-year-old man who was driving the school bus when one of his passengers died had a long history of motor vehicle infractions, including 14 driver's license suspensions. The accident occurred when he attempted to make an illegal U-turn after missing an exit on Interstate 80 in New Jersey. He has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide.

Stefanik is also the co-sponsor of the Secure Every Child Under the Right Equipment Standards Act. This legislation would make seat belts mandatory safety equipment on every school bus in America and three-point seat belts the national standard. New York and New Jersey are among only eight states that currently require seat belts on school buses.

Companies, school districts and government agencies are expected to take reasonable steps to ensure that the bus drivers they employ are capable of discharging their duties safely, and personal injury attorneys may take action to hold them financially responsible when this duty of care is not met. When preparing bus accident lawsuits, attorneys may run background checks on the driver involved and scrutinize other documents that could establish liability such as maintenance logs and repair records.

Source: CBS New York, Father Of Girl Killed In School Bus Crash Pushes For Nationwide Law Requiring Safer School Buses, Staff report, May 14, 2019

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