It would be pretty hard to find someone who would argue that texting while behind the wheel is not incredibly risky. Still, following the news raises some questions about whether some bus drivers actually believe using their phones, for texting or otherwise, while driving, is hazardous.
On Saturday, there was a story, added to many others, from WKRN about a school bus driver in Tennessee who was allegedly shown in a video to be texting while driving a school bus with students on board.
My understanding is that school bus drivers are trained to never text while driving. However, are they also told in training that that also pertains to picking up your phone and reading texts while driving, or even in some cases, while loading or unloading students? Especially in light of the fatal Knoxville accident, and the discovery that the driver was texting at the time, I would imagine this topic has been revisited in more detail by safety trainers and driver trainers.
I started wondering about this after SBF ran a news story about another Knox County (Tenn.) Schools bus driver who was removed from the eligibility list for reading a text on his phone while driving, and denied he was texting. (This driver worked for a contractor that served the same district as the driver involved in last year’s fatal Knoxville crash.)
He said he was reading a message from his employer, and didn’t seem to understand that picking up his phone and reading messages while driving, although it may not technically be texting because he wasn’t typing a message, still was not allowed.
Meanwhile, a school bus driver in Florida seemed to not see a problem with texting while driving because she said she was driving slowly on a dirt road when there were no other cars, according to WPTV.
One story that stands out, though, is about an Ohio school bus driver who was cited with a first-degree misdemeanor for texting on a bus while supervising the loading of students — not while driving, The Alliance Review reports.
The driver was looking at her phone while students were boarding the bus, according to a citation served to the school district by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The superintendent had talked with her, but had not taken disciplinary action because the driver was not driving while looking at her phone.
Laws against texting while driving vary from state to state — Oklahoma, for example, just put a ban on texting and driving on Nov. 1. (The state Highway Patrol is actually using a school bus to catch texting violators in one county because of its high vantage point, according to News on 6). Still, are bus drivers specifically told in training that even reading texts or looking at their phone while behind the wheel is forbidden? Are districts sufficiently informed of laws like the one in Ohio, that Sebring Local School District was not aware of?
Moreover, was the Tennessee bus driver who denied he was texting, despite reading texts on his phone, put in a difficult position by his employer? Should supervisors be sending instructions by text to drivers while they are on their routes?
Do you think there should be more training on phone use while driving or operating the bus? Please share your thoughts and experiences with this in the comments section below.
Nicole Schlosser is managing editor of School Bus Fleet magazine.
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