Assemblyman Ron Kim and State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky rolled out a bill last Tuesday that, if passed into law, would require drivers of chartered buses to display their credentials inside the bus while on duty.
The legislation would also require the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue new credentials for operators qualified to drive a bus and conduct an audit of these companies every year.
The bus companies are currently audited every three years.
“There’s no way for a rider, a consumer, to know when they step on a bus whether that bus driver was properly vetted or licensed by the state of New York. That’s a problem,” Kim said. “You don’t know how many people are out there who should not be driving the bus, who are unqualified, who might have had a DUI or who might not even have a commercial driver’s license.”
The driver of the Dahlia bus, 49-year-old Raymond Mong, was fired from the MTA after he was convicted of drunk driving in Connecticut. According to reports, Mong caused an accident and left the scene.
Since 2015, Dahlia bus drivers have been cited seven times for unsafe driving.
Kim said after asking several agencies, he found out that officials “don’t keep track of these drivers.” He hopes to change that through this legislation.
“This is one clear way, as a state, that we can improve the industry right away,” he said. “That’s the fastest and clearest way we can resolve this, by empowering the public to hold the bus drivers and companies accountable.”
Stavisky, who recently had her second knee replaced and has been taking private taxis recently, compared the license display for bus drivers to what taxi cab drivers are required to do.
“What we’re doing really is extending that idea to the private bus companies,” she said. “We’ve got to be sure, when someone enters a bus, no matter where the bus is going, that the driver is fully licensed, that the driver doesn’t have a history of reckless driving.”
The senator added that elected officials met with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) about five weeks ago. She said the investigation on the incident is ongoing, and suspects it will take some time to conclude.
The lawmakers recognized the limits that state legislators have on private bus companies. While they’re doing what they can at the state level, they said, they’re supportive of efforts that Congresswoman Grace Meng is making on the federal level.
Kim added that a law is already in place to regulate bus operators and their drivers, but their bill would simply amend it.
“Perhaps it’s difficult in Washington right now, but I know she had a number of questions for the people from the National Transportation Safety Board,” Stavisky said.
The legislators also introduced the wife of a crash victim and gave her brief account of the events that day. Young Lim, whose husband Sangki Kang injured his neck, head and back, recalled through a translator that her husband left the house at 6 a.m. that morning.
Kang, a contractor, parked his car and went to a nearby deli to order coffee. As soon as he got back to the driver’s seat, Lim said, the crash occurred.
He was inside one of the four cars impacted by the deadly collision. Kang called his wife at 6:16 a.m., and told her he got into a car accident.
“He was bleeding and couldn’t even get out of his seat,” Kang said. “I thought my husband almost died. He hung up the phone right away.”
When Lim arrived on the scene minutes later, she found out her husband was injured, and he later went to the hospital to be treated. He’s still going to physical therapy now, but is well enough to be working again.
“If he had gotten the coffee 10 seconds later, he would’ve been hit by the bus without any protection,” she said.