December 9, 2008

In March of this year, the Director of Pupil Transportation for the State of Alabama sent this memo to all local transportation supervisors. His message is a reasonable one.


Transportation Supervisors:

This correspondence is to provide information about Bus Radio. Bus Radio is a start-up company that is marketing radio programming on local school system school buses. The company is offering school districts, free of charge, bus radios that play its special radio show, which includes advertising as a part of the show format. The Bus Radio program content as well as safety issues have been the object of much debate recently. Proponents believe the programming will improve bus discipline, and the system has GPS capabilities in addition to a panic button to connect the driver with the proper authorities in an emergency. Opponents cite safety concerns related to driver distraction, advertising to students, and unacceptable artists used in the programming.

If you have not already been contacted by Bus Radio about putting these units in your system’s buses, you likely will be. I have concerns about this product based primarily on safety factors. You will have to determine content, and if you install this product you will have to deal with parents and students who object to content, etc.

I feel compelled to inform you that Bus Radio also seeks the attention of school bus drivers in the programming. This is done through contests that require drivers to call in to register and then listen during their bus routes for their name to be called. When a driver hears his/her name called, he/she can call in to win a cash prize. School bus drivers are required to follow very specific safety procedures when driving school buses. This is especially true when buses are loading/unloading, traversing railway grade crossings, backing, etc. Drivers’ complete attention must be focused on driving safety and their students and not on radio programming or contests.

As a final thought, please be reminded that according to Alabama law all school buses must be in compliance with the Alabama Minimum Specifications for School Buses. Accordingly, all school bus equipment and/or bus modifications must be done in accordance with these regulations.

This information is being sent to you in the interest of school bus safety. I encourage each of you to check out Bus Radio on the Internet. You will find a wealth of information just by searching for "Bus Radio." If you have questions or concerns regarding this matter, please contact Brad Holley or me.

Joe Lightsey
Pupil Transportation