In response to a report of a road rage incident in Howell, state Sen. Robert Singer (R-Monmouth and Ocean), whose legislative district includes Howell, has introduced legislation to create a new criminal mischief charge applicable to cases of road rage where a person damages a school bus in the presence of a child who is under the age of 16.
“Even in a high-traffic state like New Jersey, it is hard to believe any driver could get so angry that they would put innocent children in harm’s way,” Singer said in a press release. “There is no excuse for attacking a school bus filled with kids. What happened in Howell is every parent’s worst nightmare. We need to take action now so drivers know this type of reckless behavior is completely unacceptable.”
According to the press release, Singer chose to take action after reading a May 1 account detailing the trauma children in Howell endured when a man shattered the window of their school bus during an April 16 incident.
Following that incident, an 18-year-old male resident of Howell was charged with one count of criminal mischief. Police said the incident occurred at 2:45 p.m. April 16 and involved a motor vehicle and a school bus. The incident occurred on Ramtown–Greenville Road near Moses Milch Road.
Police said that during the incident, the passenger in the vehicle – who was subsequently identified as the 18-year-old Howell resident – exited the vehicle, approached the bus on the driver’s side, began yelling obscenities at the female driver and punched a window, causing it to shatter.
Police said children were on the bus at the time of the incident. Police did not say what caused the young man to become upset enough to leave the vehicle in which he was a passenger.
According to the press release from Singer, under current law, criminal mischief is generally graded by the monetary value to the damaged property.
If criminal mischief causes damage equaling a loss of $2,000 or more, it is a crime of the third degree, which is punishable by three to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine. If the loss is more than $500 and less than $2,000, it is a crime of the fourth degree, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Singer’s bill would create a new criminal mischief charge that would apply to road rage incidents involving school buses, regardless of the value of the damage caused, according to the press release.
Under the bill, damaging or impairing the operation of a school bus in the presence of a child during a road rage incident would be a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Additionally, under the bill, if a child is injured during the road rage incident, the offense would be a crime of the third degree, punishable by three to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
Singer’s legislation was officially introduced on May 13 in the state Senate.
“Unfortunately, road rage has become common in the Garden State, but clearly, our current penalties are not strong enough to stop hot-tempered drivers from taking out their anger on a school bus packed with kids,” Singer said. “Hopefully, by enacting a stronger deterrent, we can ensure that what happened in Howell never happens again.”