In our high tech world, staying connected has become a way life, and cell phones are a necessity to a great majority. Grocery stores, baseball games, restaurants--there doesn’t seem to be a place we visit every day where cell phones are banned, until now.
Thanks to a Texas law that went in to effect on September 1, 2009, drivers are no longer allowed to use handheld devices while in school zones. That means no talking, no texting, no checking Facebook. No activity is allowed on a handheld device. The only exception allows for drivers to make calls with a hands-free device. Violators can be fined up to $200.
Bus drivers carrying minor passengers were also affected by this law; they are prohibited from talking on a cell phone while transporting minors except in the event of the call is made to an emergency response service or to call for help. Bus drivers are allowed, however, to use a cell phone if they are pulled over and at a complete stop.
While this law is in effect today, there are parents who disregard the law and continue to talk on their phones. The Blanco County News received a call from a parent regarding a bus driver who was leaving a school zone, carrying minor passengers, and talking on his cell phone. BCN contacted Dr. Buck Ford, superintendent of Blanco Independent School District, about the reported incident.
"Our bus drivers do carry cell phones," Dr. Ford responded in an email. "The purpose of this is for school related communications designed around the safe transporting of students. Our bus drivers should comply with the law in use of cell phones, which prohibits use of a wireless communication device while operating a passenger bus with a minor passenger on the bus unless the passenger bus is stopped, or if the call is used to make an emergency call. Parents may call the Blanco ISD central office at 833-4414 to report non-compliance with the law."
Blanco Police Chief Milton Willmann stated that they are always watchful; however, catching someone talking on a phone is tough. If a police officer sees a bus driver out of compliance, the officer will generally take down the identifying information and contact the school district instead of stopping the bus and writing a ticket on the scene.