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Wisconsin May Make It a Crime for School Bus Drivers to Chat on Cell Phones

After banning texting for all drivers last year, the state of Wisconsin is now considering a bill by Rep. Samantha Kerkman to prohibit cell-phone use by school bus drivers when kids are on board.

Under the proposal, drivers caught using a phone while transporting or unloading children would be fined and have their license revoked. The proposed legislation received a public hearingat the Capitol.

Kerkman said she is worried that cell phones provide a dangerous distraction to school bus drivers during the transport of students. She emphasized that bus drivers need to stay alert for possible emergencies to protect their passengers. Even though many bus drivers might not make calls while driving, Kerkman said it can be difficult for them to ignore incoming calls.

Violators would be fined $200 for a first offense and $500 for a second. Also, if bus drivers were caught chatting twice within two years, the Department of Transportation would take away their bus licenses for at least six months. The ban would apply to those driving yellow school buses or other vehicles used to transport students.

In the case of an emergency, however, bus drivers could still use their cell phones to call 911.

Cellphone and texting laws vary widely, with 30 states restricting the use of all cell phones by novice drivers. Using a cell phone while driving a school bus is prohibited in 19 states and the District of Columbia, which would make Wisconsin the 20th state to crack down on such offenses.

Talking on a handheld cell phone while driving is banned in 10 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington) and the District of Columbia. Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

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