Bus Drivers' Restricted Cell Phone Usage

By: Phil Pendleton
By: Phil Pendleton

There could be a new law concerning cell phones but it would only affect school bus drivers.

The law comes in the wake of several bus accidents in recent weeks including a crash in Grant County that injured several children but as the bill passes drivers who talk on phones could be slapped with fines.

Susan McNew has hauled children around for the Franklin County school system for three years. She carried a cell phone with her but she said she’d only use it in the event of an emergency, never while driving.

“A lot of people don’t respect the bus driver. You have to watch the traffic. You have to concentrate,” McNew said.

Representative Royce Adams filed the bill in the wake of the Grant County school bus crash earlier this year that injured a number of children, some seriously. The driver now faces drug charges.

“I don’t think anything has been proven but there was rumors she was using a cell phone while driving the bus,” McNew said.

Police say they looked into allegations of text messaging but their investigation primarily focused on the drug allegations which led to an indictment. Regardless, Adams said bus drivers have too much at stake to be chatting on a phone.

“They’ve got our children in their care while driving that bus,” Reprsentative Adams said.

Bus drivers caught talking on a phone would be slapped with a $50 fine the first offense but if they do it again they could be charged with a $100 fine and lose their driving endorsement for six months. McNew said it should be common sense.

“You know every bus driver that is a concerned and responsible bus driver would not use their cell phone while driving,” Representative Adams said.

The bill unanimously passed in the House Education Committee. Several states including Tennessee already have laws banning cell phones by school bus drivers.

Another bill up for consideration in the House would make it clear the General Assembly has the power to pass and repeal state laws within the budget bill. This bill could be brought up at any time but House Speaker Jody Richards said he has “grave reservations” about the measures, which he describes as having serious problems.

A Richards spokeswoman said the House Speaker is concerned about the need to do business in the public, which could limit the amount of review that would go into legislation.

Representative Harry Moberly is sponsoring the bill and said critics are off-base.


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