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Final Rule Banning Interstate School Bus Drivers from Using Cell Phones Takes Effect

Beginning Oct. 27, some school bus drivers can be fined up to $2,750 and lose their CDL if caught using a cell phone or other non-approved wireless communication device while behind the wheel.

The FMCSA rule targets both phone and texting conversations as well as any other use of the devices. Most school district bus drivers are exempt from the new law, but drivers employed by private bus companies with U.S. DOT numbers engaged in interstate activity trips will be subject to the fines. Employers will also be held accountable with fines of up to $11,000 for each driver citation.

Despite the exemption for regular route school bus drivers, many school districts have or are in the process of implanting school district policies banning all cell phone use while driving.

Under the new statute, drivers who are cited twice for using wireless communication devices while driving in a 3-year period lose their commercial driver’s license for at least 60 days. This suspension increases to 120 days for a third violation during the same three-year period.

Rulemaking began after the first national distracted driving summit in October 2009. A survey conducted nearly a year earlier by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 94 percent of drivers consider it unacceptable for a driver to send text messages or e-mail while driving. Meanwhile, nearly 87 percent considered text messaging and e-mailing by drivers to be a very serious threat to their personal safety. According to a survey conducted by Nationwide Insurance, 80 percent of Americans support laws prohibiting texting or emailing while driving.

A CBS News/New York Times poll reported that nine out of 10 Americans think texting behind the wheel should be outlawed. And more than 94 percent of those who admit to texting or e-mailing while driving acknowledge that it makes them at least a little bit more likely to be involved in a crash.

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