The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was supposed to herald a new generation of smartphones and rival the dominance of Apple’s iPhone. Instead, the company has recalled millions of these devices, after it had the alarming tendency to burst into flames.
Earlier this month, the South Korean technology company announced that it would discontinue distributing the Note 7. This is after Samsung had already recalled 2.5 million devices and scrapped the replacements in September.
Due to the phone presenting an obvious danger to passengers, the FAA and Amtrak prohibited the Note 7 from all flights and trains after a number of instances of these devices nearly igniting in people’s pockets.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Samsung received 96 reports of batteries in Note 7 phones overheating nationwide. The company also received 13 reports of burns and 47 reports of property damage associated with devices.
Last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a safety advisory to commercial vehicle owners and operators alerting them to the potential dangers of the smartphones.
FMCSA advised to take several measures to ensure personal safety, like turning off the device, disconnecting the device from charging equipment and disabling all applications that could inadvertently activate the phone. FMCSA also warned Note 7 owners to not store the smartphone in inaccessible baggage compartments.
There was no official word on similar bans of the device from the student transportation industry as of this writing, but that doesn’t mean the issue hasn’t been raised.
“Officially, our policy is if you can’t do it in the classroom, you can’t do it on the bus,” said Pete Meslin, director of transportation at Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Southern California.
He added that this rule for student passengers isn’t “strictly enforced.”
While the exact causes of the unexpected combustion incidents are unknown, a number of experts place the blame on the phone’s innards being too tightly packed. This left no room for the batteries to expand when charging or being used heavily. The pressure triggered short-circuiting and overheating, resulting in the Note 7s catching fire.
Since the Samsung smartphone has been barred from being on board almost all mass transit vehicles, as well as stations and platforms, extending the exclusion of the malfunctioning device to school buses is not out of the realm of possibility.
“It’s definitely worth having a conversation about here,” Meslin said.
Houston Independent School District had the conversation. According to a newsletter put out by the district’s transportation department, effective Oct. 17, employees are banned from bringing Note 7s on Houston ISD school buses, using the device in the shop or activating it near the fueling station.