“We know that too many of these vehicles are operating illegally and without the critical safety measures needed to protect the lives of customers who depend on them for transportation and the public at large,” said Senator Sacco, who also serves as mayor of North Bergen. “It took a horrific tragedy to finally bring attention to this issue. Sadly, an infant had to lose her life to make it happen. With this new law, we are taking a significant step forward in our effort to better protect the lives of those who ride these vans as well as pedestrians on the busy streets of Hudson County.”
Angelie Jiang Paredes was tragically killed when an unlawfully operated autobus jumped the curb along Boulevard East in West New York, knocking down a light pole that fell and crushed the 8-month-old in her stroller. It is alleged that the driver of the vehicle was using his cell phone at the time of the accident and he is facing up to 10 years in prison on various charges.
The law, S-3082, establishes a bill of rights – called the Bill of Rights for Customers of Certain Autobuses – providing customer protections, obligations of the owners and operators of certain autobuses and basic level of expectations and guarantees of health, safety, and welfare of autobus operators. Second, it imposes fines of up to $5,000 on the owner of an autobus company for allowing drivers without a valid commercial license. Prior to this measure, New Jersey law imposed fines on the vehicle operator, not the company. It further requires owners to post telephone numbers on the inside and outside for passengers and pedestrians to report unsafe driving. Lastly, the law allows police officers to obtain a blood sample from an autobus operator, if the vehicle was involved in an accident resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of any person.
“We cannot allow the owners of these vehicles to operate without regard for the law or the safety of the public. This law establishes new state regulations over the industry designed to ensure customers are safe and that owners and operators are held accountable,” said Senator Sacco. “While we would have liked to do more, federal law and regulations make it difficult. Working with Congressman Albio Sires (D-8) and New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, I hope that changes in federal laws will make it easier to stop unsafe and unlawful owners and operators.”
Senator Sacco recognized the efforts of Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, West New York Mayor Felix Roque, other local officials and police departments on their efforts to increase the enforcement of existing traffic and safety laws on the commuter autobuses. He similarly recognized Assembly colleagues Prieto, Jimenez and Mainor for working with him and the many stakeholders and the public on crafting legislation that protects the residents of New Jersey.