A Florida school bus driver is facing a serious reprimand after she was caught on videotape using her cell phone while recklessly driving.
"When she would be texting she would look all the way down for like seconds at a time. Not looking straight in front of her," one student told Fort Myers’ NBC2. NBC2’s investigative team was tipped off by a concerned parent whose child had reported her bus driver’s tendency for texting behind the wheel. The investigators tracked the bus for two days, while the driver piloted the bus with one hand, broke the speed limit, and accidentally left her turning blinker on for miles and miles.
Florida bus drivers are legally allowed to use mobile devices for phone calls, although Lee County, where this occurred, has a separate mandate that bans this behavior. In addition, like in 40 other U.S. states and the District of Columbia, texting is illegal for all drivers in Florida.
Despite these laws, the habit continues to endanger the lives of thousands of motorists each year. The state of Washington passed the first distracted driving laws in 2007, but over 3,000 fatalities and 350,000 injuries still occur each year.
Lawmakers across the country are looking for new ways to crack down on cell phone usage while driving. California is trying to close loopholes that require police officers to see what a driver is doing on a smartphone before writing a citation. In the past, some drivers have escaped penalty by saying that they weren’t making a call, but merely searching for contact info or picking a song on iTunes.
Soon, it may not only be the texters who get in trouble, but also the recipients on the other end of the electronic message. Earlier this week, CNN reported that three New Jersey judges ruled that people could be legally liable for an accident by sending a text to a person who they know is driving. This ruling wasn’t too surprising, given the Garden State’s stiff penalties for distracted drivers, which include fines up to $150,000 and a 10-year prison sentence if they hurt someone in an accident.