That's the question we posed recently in the Forum on SBF's Website at www.schoolbusfleet.com/forum. Here are some of the responses:
They divert driver attention
Two-way radios are difficult enough to pay attention to while driving and they're mounted on the bus body, not tucked under your ear or held in your hand. Dialing, even one-touch, requires you to focus away from traffic for too long. Buses that travel long distances should be equipped with cell phones, but they must not be used while the bus is moving.
Fred Fennell, transportation director
Flagstaff (Ariz.) Unified School District
Keep eyes and hands on the job
I've tried using my cell phone in my car, and that's hard enough. It takes two hands to handle a school bus, and more eyes than we have to watch everything we're supposed to. I sometimes hate using my radio while driving, let alone trying to dial a phone. I carry my cell phone with me just in case I am out of ra-dio range, but to use it I would definitely pull over.
Theresa Nelson, driver
Fairbanks Local Schools
Milford Center, Ohio
Let drivers decide if it's safe
My personal feeling on the use of cell phones is that all bus drivers are trained professionals. I think if the need arises for you to use the phone while driving, do so with caution. I know that I have had to call a parent to get in touch with someone to pick up a student. This was a little tot and there was no way I was letting her off without her ride there to pick her up. So I took her with me and called a neighbor parent to contact someone to meet me on the bus at a later time so I could keep on schedule. But we shouldn't just be chatting for the heck of it while driving. That is a definite no-no.
Barbara Laws, driver
Monroe County Board of Education
Even hands-free phones are risky
Absolutely not! New York state lawmakers just passed a law banning all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. If a school bus driver has a legitimate emergency, he/she should pull off the road in a safe location and make the emergency phone call. I strongly feel that a driver should not be allowed to use any type of cell phone, including hands free, while driving. The problem with driving and using the cell phone is not that it's difficult to hold onto the phone. The problem is that it takes a driver's attention away from the task of driving safely.
Delos D. Luther II, transportation supervisor
Beacon City (N.Y.) School District
It's unsafe and bad for image
No! No! No! No phones while the bus is in motion. That's our policy. We supply a cell phone to our drivers who are on field trips. They also have two-way radios, but our policy is to pull the bus over to make a call. We are providing a serv-ice that needs our undivided attention. No excuses. Period. It's bad for business to see a bus driver on a cell phone. Take yourself out of the bus for a moment and put yourself in a passing vehicle, watching you talk on a cell phone. Then ask yourself if you want that bus driver taking your kids to school. No, I don't think so. There is no phone call important enough to jeopardize the safety of our precious cargo, even a 911 call. There is time to pull over, stop and secure the bus before making the call.
Leonard M. Caetano, lead mechanic
Southwest Transportation Agency
Cell phones block out other sounds
Cell phones may be great in certain areas, but they should not be used while driving. Even the hands-free variety should be off-limits, because they prevent the driver from devoting 100 percent of his attention to his driving. Earpieces tend to block out the sounds around a driver. That is why it is illegal to operate a bus or commercial vehicle with earphones on.
Steve Lower, driver
Norman (Okla.) Public Schools