Tennessee is currently in the process of increasing the penalties for bus drivers who are caught texting while driving. What prompted a change to the law was a crash in December 2014, where two school buses collided and resulted in the deaths of two children and a teacher’s aide.
Currently, there is a law in place that prohibits bus drivers from texting while driving, or from using their smartphones to make calls while there are children on the bus and/or the bus is in motion, other than if there is an emergency. If a bus driver is caught violating the current law, they only face a Class C Misdemeanor with a $50 penalty.
Lawmakers feel this punishment is not significant enough to get bus drivers to stop texting while driving a bus full of children and/or people. As such, new legislation was introduced to make the punishment more severe for bus drivers caught texting or on their smartphones. The bill has already flown through Tennessee’s State Senate unopposed, and it has won approval from every senator. Now the bill has to make its way through the Tennessee House of Representatives, where it is currently under review.
Under the new law, should the bill pass and take effect, any bus drivers caught texting or talking on their smartphones while driving, after July 1, 2016, will face a minimum $1,000 fine and a minimum of 30 days in jail. In addition, the bus driver would no longer be allowed to operate a bus in the State of Tennessee. It will be interesting to see if the bill will pass and if other states will follow suit in increasing the severity of their laws, too.
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