PRESS RELEASE - December 16, 2003
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

Secretary Garcia Accepts School Bus Safety Task Force Recommendations; Public Comment Sought

(Santa Fe, NM)--Secretary of Education Dr. Veronica C. Garcia has approved the recommendations of the School Bus Safety Task Force, appointed in November following allegations that an elementary school bus driver for the Moriarty Municipal Schools was driving drunk. Under the recommendations, an individual would be prohibited from transporting students if he or she has received a DWI or DUI in the past 10 years.

“After a detailed review of the regulations pertaining to student transportation, it is clear that district enforcement of and compliance with these regulations must be improved,” said Secretary Garcia.

The task force recommended a proposed regulation to establish the following requirements:

· An individual applying for a position to transport students would not be eligible to operate a school bus or school-owned vehicle due to the following:

- Receiving a DWI or DUI within the previous 10 years, two convictions in any combination of DWI or DUI within the previous 15 years or three or more convictions of either a DWI or DUI
- A driver’s license suspended or revoked within the previous five years for serious traffic violations
- Conviction on more than three serious traffic violations within the previous three years
- Conviction of any felony within the previous 10 years
- Conviction for child abuse
- Conviction on any misdemeanor drug charges within the previous 25 years.

· Uniform application questions, affidavits, waivers and release forms for employment as a school bus driver/attendant.

· Require the Department of Transportation physical examination and eliminate the NMPED-authorized examination form for applicants.

Existing employees would have to meet the approved standards within the next five years or they would become ineligible to operate a school bus.

The term “serious traffic violation” would be defined in the rule to mean conviction on any of the following offenses when operating any motor vehicle:

· Excessive speeding involving any single offense for any speed of 15 miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit
· Reckless driving in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property
· Improper or erratic traffic lane changes
· Following the vehicle ahead too closely
· A violation arising in connection with a fatal accident
· Driving a commercial motor vehicle without obtaining a commercial driver’s license with the proper endorsements.

The task force recommended that within the current school year, all personnel in school transportation programs receive a minimum of two hours of training on reasonable suspicion for substance and alcohol abuse due to a gap in district compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act, that a new rule be enacted to require an annual two-hour training for school district transportation supervisors, providers and other managerial staff and that districts conduct monthly checks of all school transportation drivers’ records, including bus drivers employed by outside contractors.

A public hearing on the proposed rule will be announced. The draft rule will also go before the New Mexico Public Education Commission for review at its January 7, 2004 meeting in Santa Fe.

The task force recommendations are available for public review at the following web address: http://www.ped.state.nm.us/div/fin/trans/memos/current.events.html. Public comment may be directed to State Transportation Director Gilbert Perea at gperea@ped.state.nm.us or Public Education Department, School Transportation, 300 Don Gaspar, Room G-7, Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786 or faxed to (505) 827-5802.