On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Municipal Appeal No. 10-079.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Parrillo and Alvarez.
Defendant Sandra McNeil appeals from a careless driving conviction, N.J.S.A. 39:4-97, and sentence of a $52 fine and $33 in court costs. We affirm.
First convicted in the Morris Township Municipal Court, defendant appealed to the Law Division. After a trial de novo on the record, Rule 3:23, she was again convicted on September 23, 2011.
On April 30, 2010, at approximately 8:16 a.m., defendant was driving her daughter to school in the family's 2010 Toyota Highlander, a sport utility vehicle. The child had testing scheduled that morning and therefore needed to be prompt. As defendant pulled past a stationary school bus, the first of a line of buses parked in the fire lane, she struck the passenger side of her vehicle against the rear driver's side of the school bus causing $1800 in damage to her own vehicle. Defendant was familiar with the morning traffic pattern as she had other children in the school and participated in the design of the school's traffic flow plan. When he rendered his decision, the Law Division judge stated:
By her own statement, [defendant] looked and she saw that there were cars coming . . . . Notwithstanding, she pulled around the parked school bus.
. . . [I]t does appear despite the fact that the . . . buses seem to pull over as far right as possible, it does not leave a full lane available for the passage of traffic in each direction.
While the oncoming traffic for the defendant's lane would not be obstructed in any way, the defendant's lane was, indeed, [obstructed] by the presence of the buses.
In this particular instance, we have a driver who is very familiar with the area, in fact, was involved in the creation of the traffic plan for the area by her own testimony. She viewed cars coming in her direction. [There] was a reasonable inference based on her testimony [that she was] desirous of getting to the school quickly[,] meaning that she perhaps was less patient than she would otherwise have been to get to the school.
She pulled around the . . . bus knowing that there were vehicles coming in her direction. She said she was sandwiched, but that wasn't accurate. She wasn't sandwiched because she didn't collide with a car on one side and the bus on the other which would perhaps have been more indicative of an accident . . . . But she is the one who did not make it around the bus. Knowing that a car was coming, . . . [s]he did not leave herself enough space.
This occurred so close to that particular bus that she should have at the very least waited for the cars to pass, but she should have seen the cars. If they were two bus lengths away, I can't understand why it would have taken her that long to get where she needed to be.
She pulled around this vehicle and struck it almost immediately in the rear corner . . . . She did not express the due caution necessary when making this maneuver. The testimony and the evidence would indicate that she did it because she was . . . desirous of getting to the school ...