Bus safety law proposed after student with special needs died on Whittier bus in 2015

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The mother of Paul Lee, a student with special needs who died after being left unattended on a Whittier school bus, urged lawmakers to approve a new law to prevent such tragedies.

The Paul Lee Bus Safety Law, proposed by Sen. Tony Mendoza, calls for every school bus in the state to have child safety alarm systems in place. All 1,300 Los Angeles Unified School District buses, as well as 600 contracted buses with the district, already have them.

The bill was unanimously approved Tuesday afternoon by the California Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. The bill must go through two more committees before it heads to the entire Senate. If approved, it would start in January 2017.

The alarm works to keep bus drivers more active in checking the vehicle. As soon as the bus driver turns off the ignition and headlights of the vehicle, he or she has 15 to 20 seconds to walk to the back of the bus.

As the driver looks around, he or she is expected to check all the seats for any students who may be sleeping all before they can deactivate the alarm. If they don't push a button to deactivate it, the alarm goes off.

Last September, 19-year-old Lee, who was diagnosed with autism and had the mental capacity of a 3-year-old, died after being left unattended on a school bus for hours. In late March, the 37-year-old driver was charged with one felony count of dependent adult abuse resulting in death.

If convicted as charged, Ramirez faces a maximum of nine years in state prison.
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