Bus Driver Charged in South Brunswick Crash That Seriously Injured Princeton Resident

A bus driver from Lakewood has been charged with assault by auto for the crash last Thursday on Route 130 in South Brunswick that seriously injured two people.

Jamal Penten, 30, surrendered Monday afternoon at South Brunswick Police headquarters.

Police allege that Penten was driving a bus recklessly when he struck a line of vehicles on Route 130 at 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 25. The investigation determined that Penten was driving on Route 130 south at 50 miles per hour in 2012 Suburban Transit – Coach USA bus, and allegedly became distracted at least 1,000 feet prior to the collision or more. He failed to reduce his speed, brake, or take evasive action, police said. He hit the first vehicle at full highway speed prior to applying his brakes, police said. He traveled another 200 feet and struck a total of nine vehicles that were stopped or slowing for the red traffic signal at Friendship Road.

Two drivers, a 35-yea-old Brick man and a 61-year-old Princeton woman, were seriously injured and remain at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. The Princeton resident has a fractured pelvis and ribs, and the Brick resident has a fractured back.

“This crash only highlights the dangers of distracted driving,” South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said. “Drivers have a responsibility to focus on their driving. This crash was preventable.”

Accident investigators determined that for at least 10 seconds prior to the crash, this driver was not looking at the highway in front of him while going 50 miles per hour. Traffic investigators conducted a dozen interviews and reconstructed the crash scene as part of the investigation. The New Jersey State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit examined the Suburban Transit – Coach USA bus.

In addition to the criminal charge of assault by auto, the bus driver was charged with reckless driving, following too closely, and obstruction of traffic. He posted $2,500 bail and was released pending his first court appearance.