School bus drivers are not covered if they are employees of a government agency, such as a school board, or if they’re operating within the same state or transporting students to and from school. An example of a school bus driver who would be covered by 390.17 is a contractor-employed driver transporting students on a field trip out of state.
Still, the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration may seek to bar other school bus drivers from texting, possibly in a forthcoming proposed rule to elaborate on the texting guidance that was issued in January.
Some states already specifically prohibit school bus drivers from using cell phones — hand-held or hands-free — and some states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones or just from texting. And many school districts and contractors have their own policies in place for their drivers.
But a federal ban for school bus drivers as well as other commercial vehicle operators would reinforce the seriousness of the issue, set deterrents and bring up to speed those jurisdictions that haven’t established prohibitions themselves.
The key to success here is enforcement. In New Jersey, where I live, hand-held cell phone use is banned for all drivers, but it seems that no one is stopping offenders.
According to research by the University of Utah, using a cell phone — hand-held or hands-free — delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
Sometimes we need to be protected from legislators. But sometimes they really do have our protection in mind.