State bill targets distracted school bus drivers

February 03rd, 2016
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State bill targets distracted school bus drivers

February 3, 2016


A bill that sets a steep punishment for distracted school bus drivers passed the House Transportation Committee Tuesday. Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, said he filed the bill for the safety of students. In December 2014, a fatal crash occurred because a Knoxville school bus driver was texting on the job, Smith said. Two students and a teacher's aide died from the crash.

 School bus drivers found using a portable electronic device while transporting students, including loading and unloading students, would face a minimum $1,000 fine and minimum period of confinement for 30 days, the bill states. Drivers also would lose their commercial driver's licenses, a requirement to drive school buses.


"While it may seem stiff, they're carrying precious cargo," Smith said. "There could be 40-plus kids on these buses."


"Their entire focus needs to be on those students from the moment the bus pulls up to the stop to the moment the kids are off that bus," Smith said.


Smith added: "If you break the law and you endanger these children, you're going to be held accountable."


Smith's bill will move to the Education Administration and Planning Committee.


While state law already prohibits drivers from texting and driving, bus drivers are not automatically fired for it.


Texting while driving became illegal in Tennessee in 2009. Violators are fined a maximum of $50.


By Melanie Balakit,