Each morning thousands of children load the bus to be transported to school. As a parent you trust your children will get to school safely and with no problems. After all, it is reported that riding a school bus is 13 times safer than any other way of transportation. But then you drive by a school bus on your way to work and see the driver chatting on their cell phone with a bus full of students and suddenly you aren’t so trusting.
This week the news has brought a lot of attention to bus drivers talking on their phones while driving. In the state of Florida, there is no law banning the use of cell phones while driving. Of course, you cannot text and drive but taking a phone call while driving is not against the law. While Florida school districts do prohibit their bus drivers from using their cell phones while driving unless there is an emergency, all of the districts handle the discipline of this differently. Polk County, for example, has what some parents call a “model policy.” Actions are taken for each offense that a bus driver has for talking on their phones. On their first offense, they receive five days of suspension without pay. On their second offense, 10 days of suspension without pay is received. Finally, on the third offense the driver may be terminated. In the past three years Polk County has had 21 violations to the no cell phone use policy.
We see people talking on their phones while driving all day long, why is it such a big deal that bus drivers are doing it? In 2006 the University of Utah did a study on the effects of talking on a cell phone while driving. The study showed that talking on a phone while driving is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 which is considered drunk driving in the state of Florida. It also showed that talking on the phone while driving is far more dangerous than talking to a passenger because the person on the other end of the phone does not know the conditions in which you are driving. This is where is gets scary. Drivers talking on their cell phones are four times more likely to get in a crash than those who aren’t on their phones. Each year cell phone use while driving causes nearly 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the U.S.
A mother posted on the Tampa Bay Mom’s Group, “You’ve got the most important thing in the world to me on that bus. If you can’t appreciate the responsibility and your cell phone is more important, then you shouldn’t be a bus driver.” This isn’t just something bus drivers need to be cautious about though. We should all be off of our phones and paying attention to our surroundings while driving at all times. You never know when you will have to make an immediate reaction in order to avoid a crash.
If you find yourself victim to a crash caused by a driver on their cell phone, please don’t hesitate to call us.