Do you trust your school bus drivers to make the right decisions?
That question came to mind recently when I read about a new antenna device that can be installed in commercial vehicles to identify cell phone wave frequencies in the driver area. If the device detects a phone call or texting, it gives the driver a verbal warning and alerts a manager.
One way to react to this new technology is to be discouraged — discouraged that there is a need for this type of device, that some professional drivers would disregard the safety of others and themselves just to take a phone call or text at the wheel.
Indeed, there seems to be a growing market for technology that monitors drivers in various ways — from recording video of their actions at the wheel to detecting speeding, hard braking, idling, etc.
This brings us back to the question: Do you trust your school bus drivers to make the right decisions? Or maybe a better question would be: Does technology make trust irrelevant when it comes to driver behavior?
In my opinion, these cell phone detection and other driver-monitoring technologies are worthy investments for school bus operations for one simple reason: precious cargo.
With dozens of children on board, the stakes are just too high to solely rely on trust that all school bus drivers will do the right thing all of the time.
Now, that’s not to say that trust is an outdated notion. Hiring trustworthy people to drive our yellow buses is as important as ever — people who have good references and clean backgrounds, people who can be depended on to report to work every day and who show a genuine interest in providing students a safe ride to and from school.
But in these days, the temptations for distraction are powerful. It could be so easy and harmless, one might think in the moment, to just pull out the cell phone and check a text or make a quick call.
But as we’re constantly reminded by distracted driving data from the U.S. Department of Transportation and other safety-related agencies and organizations, a moment of taking one’s eyes off of the road could have fatal consequences.
In a way, a device that detects cell phone use actually supports the driver — by thwarting that temptation to use the phone and setting clear expectations for focused driving.
Another argument for driver-monitoring technologies is that they can help in vindicating drivers who are falsely accused. Surveillance camera footage, for example, could show that a school bus driver didn’t do what a student claimed he or she did.
With these monitoring technologies, the message to drivers should be framed not as “this device is here to make sure you don’t break the rules” but as “this device is here to protect you as well as the students.”
Technology can’t make people do the right thing, but it can serve as a backup to trust.