BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
                              Senator Carol Liu, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:             SB 1072              
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          |Author:    |Mendoza                                              |
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          |Version:   |April 7, 2016                               Hearing  |
          |           |Date:     April 13, 2016                             |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:     |Yes             |
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          |Consultant:|Lynn Lorber                                          |
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          Subject:  Schoolbus safety:  child safety alarm system


            SUMMARY
          
          This bill requires each schoolbus, school pupil activity bus and  
          youth bus to be equipped with an operational child safety alarm  
          system by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, requires  
          school transportation safety plans to include procedures to  
          ensure that a student is not left unattended on a schoolbus,  
          requires schools to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles upon  
          discovery that a driver left the immediate vicinity of the  
          vehicle with an unsupervised student aboard, and expands  
          required training for drivers to include inspection procedures  
          to ensure a student is not left unattended.

            BACKGROUND
          
          Existing law:

          1)   Requires, prior to being eligible for a schoolbus driver's  
               certificate from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), an  
               original applicant for a certificate to have successfully  
               completed a minimum 40-hour course of instruction, and an  
               original applicant for a certificate to drive a school  
               pupil activity bus (SPAB) to have successfully completed a  
               minimum 35-hour course of instruction, as specified.  (EC   
               40082 and  40083)

          2)   Requires, upon completion of the course of instruction, the  







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               applicant to successfully complete a written exam and a  
               behind-the-wheel test in order to receive an endorsement  
               from the California Highway Patrol for eligibility for  
               certification by the DMV.  (Vehicle Code) 

          3)   Requires a schoolbus driver to possess a valid driver's  
               license for the appropriate class of vehicle endorsed for  
               schoolbus and passenger transportation, and a schoolbus  
               driver's certificate issued by the DMV.  Existing law  
               requires a SPAB driver to possess a valid driver's license  
               for the appropriate class of vehicle endorsed for passenger  
               transportation, and a SPAB driver's certificate issued by  
               the DMV.  (Vehicle Code  12517)  

          4)   Requires applicants seeking to renew a certificate to drive  
               a schoolbus or a SPAB to have successfully completed at  
               least 10 hours of classroom instruction, or  
               behind-the-wheel or in-service training during each 12  
               months of certificate validity (certificates may be valid  
               for up to five years).  Existing law requires the 

               10 hours of instruction, during the last 12 months of the  
               special driver certificate validity, to consist of  
               classroom instruction covering the following:

               a)        Current laws and regulations.

               b)        Defensive driving.

               c)        Accident prevention.

               d)        Emergency procedures.

               e)        Passenger loading and unloading.  (EC  40085)

          5)   Requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to refuse  
               to issue or revoke a schoolbus or SPAB driver certificate  
               under specified scenarios, and authorizes the DMV to refuse  
               to issue or renew, or suspend or revoke a schoolbus or  
               school pupil activity bus (SPAB) driver certificate if the  
               applicant or certificate holder has been convicted of  
               certain crimes, committed an act involving moral turpitude,  
               or has been dismissed as a driver for a cause relating to  
               student safety.








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          6)   Defines a "school pupil activity bus" as any motor vehicle,  
               other than a schoolbus, operated by a common carrier, or by  
               and under the exclusive jurisdiction of a publicly owned or  
               operated transit system, or by a passenger charter-party  
               carrier, used under a contractual agreement between a  
               school and carrier to transport students to or from a  
               school activity, or used to transport students to or from  
               residential schools, when the students are received and  
               discharged at locations where a parent or adult designated  
               by the parent is present to accept the student or place the  
               student on the bus.  (EC  39830.1)

          7)   Defines a "youth bus" as any bus, other than a schoolbus,  
               designed for carrying up to 16 people and the driver, used  
               to transport children directly from a school to an  
               organized non-school-related youth activity within 25 miles  
               of the school or directly from a location which provides  
               the organized non-school-related youth activity to a school  
               within 25 miles of that location.  (Vehicle Code  680)

          8)   Requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to  
               develop or approve courses for training SPAB, transit bus,  
               schoolbus, and farm labor vehicle drivers that will provide  
               them with the skills and knowledge necessary to prepare  
               them for certification by the DMV.  (EC  40070)

          9)   Requires the county superintendent of schools, the  
               superintendent of a school district, or the owner or  
               operator of a private school that provides transportation  
               to or from a school or school activity to prepare a  
               transportation safety plan containing procedures for school  
               personnel to follow to ensure the safe transport of  
               students.  The plan must address all of the following:




               a)        Determining if students require escort.

               b)        Procedures for all students in pre-kindergarten  
                    through grade 8 to follow as they board and exit the  
                    appropriate schoolbus at each student's bus stop.









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               c)        Boarding and exiting a schoolbus at a school or  
                    other trip destination.  
                    (EC  39831.3)

            ANALYSIS
          
          This bill requires each schoolbus, school pupil activity bus and  
          youth bus to be equipped with an operational child safety alarm  
          system by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, requires  
          school transportation safety plans to include procedures to  
          ensure that a student is not left unattended on a schoolbus,  
          requires schools to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles  
          (DMV) upon discovery that a driver left the immediate vicinity  
          of the vehicle with an unsupervised student aboard, and expands  
          required training for drivers to include inspection procedures  
          to ensure a student is not left unattended.  Specifically, this  
          bill:

          1)   Requires, by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, each  
               schoolbus, school student activity bus (SPAB), and youth  
               bus to be equipped with an operational child safety alarm  
               system.

          2)   Requires the county superintendent of schools, the  
               superintendent of a school district, or the owner or  
               operator of a private school to notify the DMV within five  
               days of discovery that a driver of a schoolbus, SPAB, or  
               youth bus has left the immediate vicinity of the vehicle  
               with an unsupervised student onboard.  This bill provides  
               that escorting preschool-grade 8 students off of the bus,  
               as is required in certain circumstances, is not considered  
               leaving the immediate vicinity of the vehicle.

          3)   Authorizes the DMV to refuse to issue or renew, or to  
               suspend or revoke a schoolbus, SPAB, or youth bus driver  
               certificate if the applicant or certificate holder has been  
               reported to the DMV for leaving a student unattended on a  
               schoolbus, SPAB, or youth bus.

          4)   Requires the governing board of a school district to  
               require that any contract for the transportation of  
               students to include the requirement that a student not be  
               left unattended on a schoolbus, school student activity  
               bus, or youth bus.








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          5)   Expands training for drivers during the last 12 months of  
               the validity of the driver's certificate to include  
               inspection procedures to ensure that a student is not left  
               unattended.

          6)   Requires a school transportation safety plan to include  
               procedures to ensure that a student is not left unattended  
               on a schoolbus, SPAB, or youth bus.

          7)   Requires the California Highway Patrol, by January 1, 2018,  
               to adopt regulations governing the specifications,  
               installation, and use of child safety alarm systems.

          8)   Defines "child safety alarm system" as a device located at  
               the interior rear of a vehicle that requires the driver to  
               manually contact the device before exiting the vehicle,  
               thereby prompting the driver to inspect the entirety of the  
               interior of the vehicle before exiting.

          STAFF COMMENTS
          
          1)   Need for the bill.  According to the author, "Although  
               school buses provide one of the safest modes of  
               transportation, there are still school bus-related  
               injuries, and unfortunately some fatalities every year.   
               Children left unattended on a bus may be subject to  
               extremely cold or hot temperatures causing injury, trauma,  
               or death.  Unfortunately, across the nation there are  
               regular news reports describing incidents of children being  
               stranded inside a bus for hours until someone realizes they  
               are missing.  These reports include cases involving  
               special-needs students, who are often the most vulnerable  
               and sometimes non-verbal.  During the last several years in  
               California, there have been several cases where children  
               where left on school buses unattended and found hours  
               later.  This bill seeks to prevent children being left on  
               buses unattended by adding safe pupil transportation  
               measures to ensure drivers check the bus at the end of  
               their routes to make certain all children are off the  
               vehicle."

          2)   Child safety alarm systems.  This bill defines "child  
               safety alarm system" as a device located at the interior  








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               rear of a vehicle that requires the driver to manually  
               contact the device before exiting the vehicle, thereby  
               prompting the driver to inspect the entirety of the  
               interior of the vehicle before exiting.  There are several  
               manufacturers of such devices, and a few different ways in  
               which they function.  Many systems work by sounding an  
               alarm, or reminder tone, when the ignition key is turned  
               off; the bus driver must press a button located in the back  
               of the bus to turn the alarm off; if this button is not  
               pushed within a certain amount of time, the alarms sounds  
               louder and the bus horn is engaged.

          It may be possible for a student to be left behind on a bus even  
               with a child safety alarm in place.  Some child safety  
               alarms systems consist of a button located at the rear of  
               the bus which must be pressed to disengage the alarm; it is  
               possible that a student could press the button, whether on  
               their own or upon request of a driver, or a driver could  
               walk to the back of the bus to press the button without  
               carefully checking for students that may be left behind.   
               This bill expands training to include procedures to ensure  
               that a student is not left unattended.  Will child safety  
               alarms, combined with additional training for drivers,  
               ensure that students are not left behind on buses?

          3)   Los Angeles Unified School District.  According to the Los  
               Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the district  
               installed the Child Check-Mate System on their school buses  
               in 2001.  The LAUSD states that its schoolbus drivers  
               receive orientation on the procedures to check buses for  
               remaining students and on the proper use of the Child-Check  
               Mate System.  The LAUSD believes that the 
               system is a tool to safeguard the transport of students, is  
               effective when combined with the coordination of  
               conscientious driver safety checks.  

          4)   Due process?  This bill requires the county superintendent  
               of schools, the superintendent of a school district, or the  
               owner or operator of a private school to notify the  
               Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within five days of  
               discovery that a driver of a schoolbus, school pupil  
               activity bus (SPAB), or youth bus has left the immediate  
               vicinity of the vehicle with an unsupervised student  
               onboard.  This bill also authorizes the DMV to take action  








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               against a driver who was reported as leaving a student  
               unattended.  This bill does not provide for a process by  
               which a driver may explain any mitigating circumstances, or  
               appeal a determination by the school district or county  
               office of education, or decision made by the DMV.  Should  
               this bill be amended to provide such processes?
          
          5)   School pupil activity bus (SPAB).  Existing law defines a  
               SPAB as a vehicle operated by a common carrier, by a public  
               transit system, or by a passenger charter-party carrier,  
               used under a contractual agreement between a school and  
               carrier to transport students to or from a school activity  
               when the students are received and discharged at locations  
               where a parent or adult designated by the parent is present  
               to accept the student or place the student on the bus.   
               SPABs are not schoolbuses.  SPAB vehicles are not  
               necessarily used only to transport students (transports not  
               affiliated with the school are done on a separate trip).   
               Existing law requires SPABs to load and unload students  
               where the parent or other designated adult is present.   
               Training materials provided by the California Department of  
               Education (CDE) include provisions for SPAB drivers to  
               conduct head counts and to check for sleeping students.   
               The training materials also state that students who are  
               transported in a schoolbus of SPAB are to be under the  
               authority of, and responsible directly to, the driver of  
               the bus, and the driver shall be held responsible for the  
               orderly conduct of the students while they are on the bus  
               or being escorted across a street, highway or road.  Is it  
               reasonable to require a SPAB driver to be responsible to  
               operate the child safety alarm if a parent or other adult  
               who is affiliated with the school is present?

          6)   Driver training.  Existing law requires 40 hours of initial  
               training before a person may be eligible to take the  
               written and behind-the-wheel exams for recommendation by  
               the California Highway Patrol (CHP) for a certificate  
               issued by DMV to drive a schoolbus (35 hours for a SPAB),  
               and requires 10 hours of training annually to be eligible  
               to renew a certificate.  Existing law requires the training  
               within the last 12 months of the validity of the  
               certificate to include specific topics.  This bill expands  
               the topics of training within the last 12 months to include  
               the procedures to ensure that a student is not left  








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               unattended on a bus.

          The CDE provides training for schoolbus, SPAB, transit bus and  
               farm labor vehicle drivers, as well as for instructors of  
               this training.  The curriculum for this training currently  
               includes procedures for loading and unloading students and  
               includes some information specific to ensuring that a  
               student is not left behind on a bus.

          7)   Heard in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.   
               This bill was heard in the Senate Transportation and  
               Housing Committee on April 5, where it passed with a vote  
               of 10-0.  That Committee's analysis suggested two technical  
               amendments; those amendments have already been incorporated  
               into this bill.  

          8)   Fiscal impact.  This bill would impose unknown costs to  
               install child safety alarms.

          9)   Related legislation.  SB 247 (Lara) places new safety  
               requirements on charter buses (none specific to child  
               safety alarms).  SB 247 is pending in the Assembly. 

            SUPPORT
          
          Autism Speaks
          Center for Autism and Related Disorders
          Los Angeles Unified School District
          The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration

            OPPOSITION
           
           California Bus Association

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