N.J. moves to protect bus riders with disabilities

A new law in the Garden State aims to improve the safety of bus riders with disabilities.

The legislation gives adults with disabilities the same protection as students when using a school bus.

It requires the bus’s flashing lights to be turned on when picking up or dropping off the disabled, alerting drivers that they have to stop at least 25 feet from the bus.

Advocates are pleased the measure is now law.

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“Some folks that live in the community go to day programs, go to different programs in the community, and they would ride a bus with lights on it,” said Tom Baffuto, executive director of the Arc of New Jersey.

“The drivers were never required to put them on, and cars were never required to stop. So it seems like a no-brainer, but when you’re not required to use them, they weren’t being used.”

It’s an important safety measure for the disabled, says Jennifer Velez, Department of Human Services commissioner.

“They may go to a job or they may go to programs that fulfill the day for somebody with a developmental disability,” she said Thursday. “I’m really just looking at the fullness of somebody’s life, transportation to and from a program as part of that day, and they just need to be protected.”

Drivers who fail to stop when the flashing lights are on could get a $100 fine and 15 days of community service for the first offense. Subsequent violations could result in a $250 fine and up to 15 days in jail.

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