Advertisements on school buses could create potential safety and legal issues, according to a new position paper from the Florida Association for Pupil Transportation (FAPT).
In the paper, the association expresses its opposition to placing ads on the exterior of school buses.
“Everything we do in our business around school buses is based on the safety of students. Whenever we change something on a school bus, we say that it makes it safer,” FAPT President Mike Connors told SBF in an interview. “And in our minds, even though there’s not absolute black-and-white numbers to support it, we truly believe this [exterior advertising] makes the bus less safe.”
The Florida Legislature is also considering a bill that would allow ads on the exterior of school buses. Connors said that the bill prompted the FAPT executive committee to address the issue.
The position paper focuses on potential safety consequences and issues related to the content of the ads. FAPT President-Elect Greg Akin authored the paper, drawing from an older position paper by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services as well as more current information.
The FAPT paper argues that advertising is designed to catch the attention of passing motorists, and it detracts from the distinctive physical features of the school bus, such as its yellow color, its flashing lights and its stop arm.
“These distinctive features send a message to motorists that children are present and extreme caution is required,” the position paper states. “Advertising will mar the distinctive safety features.”
The paper links school bus advertising to the broader issue of distracted driving, citing studies showing that motorist inattention and distraction are “a definitive causal factor in a significant percentage of crashes.”
The FAPT position paper also addresses potential legal issues. It cites a 1993 ruling in Boston that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s “G-rated” advertising policy violated the U.S. Constitution.
While supporters of school bus advertising say that committees should be formed to set criteria for appropriate ads, FAPT’s paper argues that “such criteria may be challenged in court, and it is impossible for anyone to predict the likelihood of success of any legal challenge to restricting the type of advertising on school buses. … The cost for a state or local school district to defend its advertising policy in court could conceivably exceed the revenue obtained from the advertising itself.”
The entire paper can be accessed at faptflorida.org under “Position Papers.”