Legislation at the Capitol would make it a crime for school bus drivers to use a cell phone or other wireless device while kids are onboard. Under the proposal from state Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake), drivers caught using a phone while transporting or unloading children could be fined and have their license revoked.
The southeastern Wisconsin Republican says she’s worried the phones provide a dangerous distraction to drivers while kids on board. She says they need to remain mentally alert, focused, and prepared for any possible emergency, in order to protect the safety of passengers.
The ban would apply to those driving traditional yellow school buses or any other vehicle used to transport students. Drivers could be fined $200 for the first offense and $500 for the second. If they are caught twice in a two year period, Kerman says the DOT would also be required to revoke a driver’s license to operate a bus for at least six months.
Kerman says parents expect that school buses will be operated safely. While she believes many drivers would never make a call while kids are on board, she says it can be hard to ignore incoming calls.
The legislation does provide an exemption for emergency situations where a driver may need to call 911.
The proposal received a public hearing Tuesday at the Capitol. Similar versions of the bill have been offered in past sessions, but failed to clear the Legislature.