Tennessee law prohibits bus drivers from using a mobile phone while the bus is in motion and while transporting children unless there is an emergency need to use the phone. The current law is a Class C misdemeanor with a $50 fine. That was criticized as totally insufficient in 2014 when a school bus in Knox County crashed and ended the lives of two children and a teacher's assistant while also causing personal injury to other occupants.
The legislature has finally responded with a bill that is passing through the legislature fairly quickly. As of July 1, 2016, a school bus driver who violates the law and is convicted will face a minimum of 30 days in jail and a fine of at least $1,000. The bus driver would also be prohibited from ever driving a bus in Tennessee again.
The bill applies to using cell phones and other electronic devices while at least one child is on board while the bus is moving or even while it is stopped for loading or unloading. The bill has won unanimous approval in the Senate. In the disastrous Knox County bus crash, the police concluded that the bus driver was reading a text message when he allowed the speeding bus to cross the highway and collide with another school bus. There were a total of 40 children on the two buses.
The problem with texting and driving is indicative of a larger problem of distracted driving that has seen skyrocketing numbers ever since the advent of hand-held digital equipment. The Tennessee Department of Homeland Security reports that 21,024 traffic accidents in Tennessee were caused by distracted driving in 2014. In addition, it is important to remember that innocent and injured passengers on school buses and other buses involved in accidents due to distracted driving are entitled to collect damages from the bus company. Such claims are best handled by an experienced personal injury law firm with experience in that type of matter.
Source: knoxnews.com, "Law banning bus drivers from texting needed", Mar. 11, 2016