BusRadio, Drivers, Cell Phones, and Safety

January 6, 2009

On today’s morning middle school program, BusRadio ran a spot that was aimed directly at school bus drivers.

It was an appeal to drivers to call BusRadio’s toll-free number and join their Bus Driver’s Club. This is nothing more than a contest. Once a driver is a "member" of the Bus Driver’s Club then they have a chance of having their name called out on air. If that happens a driver can win up to $500.

Listen to this AUDIO FILE. The transcript is below:

BusRadio’s radio spot urging drivers to enter the BusRadio Driver’s Club.
January 7, 2009

Attention all bus drivers.

When you get a safe chance to give us a call, pick up the phone and dial 877-MYBUSDJ to join the Bus Driver’s Club. Then listen for your name on BusRadio.

If Mat and Lucia call it, you’ve won.

[Audio clip: BusRadio calls bus driver "Nancy" to tell her she has won. Who is that cheering in the background? Is that students cheering? Did they call her on her route?]

Last year we gave away tons of great prizes and lots of cash too. [Sound of cash register – cha ching.]

DJ Lucia: $500 dollars. How about that?! Driver: That’s good, that’s good.

It’s our way of saying thanks for turning on BusRadio and getting your kids to school safely. So call now and join the Bus Driver’s Club – 877-MYBUSDJ or log on to BUSRADIO.NET and go to the Drivers page. Don’t miss out on all these great prizes… oh yeah, and cash too.

Thanks again from BusRadio.

Where to start?

First, parents and educators should never allow a school supplier to offer money and prizes straight to government employee bus drivers or drivers contracted by the school district. This is a simple matter of ethics. Drivers should not use their position to enrich themselves. What if a parent wanted to pay a driver to add an unauthorized stop to their route so their child would not have to walk so far to the bus stop? What if a local radio station that played "age-appropriate" music offered school bus drivers envelopes of cash if they played only their station?

Second, BusRadio should not be distracting drivers AT ALL. BusRadio begins each morning’s program, whether it is the high school, middle school, or elementary school version, with content aimed at drivers. There is a "safety tip" for drivers and they play a song that a driver has requested. One can argue that this content aimed at drivers is coming as they leave their depot when no children are on the bus, so if they are distracted and wreck at least no children are involved.

But this Bus Driver Club pitch came today after four songs which means BusRadio knew they were trying to get drivers’ attention during their route when riders were aboard. BusRadio has to be desperate to do something this bold.

Third, the BusRadio announcer says, "When you get a safe chance to give us a call, pick up the phone and dial…" This is a bad thing for BusRadio to be saying. This statement means BusRadio wants the driver to NOT WAIT for their route to end. They want drivers to call AT THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE TIME during their drive to school in the morning. If they wanted them to wait until the route was over there would be no mention of a "safe chance." BusRadio is really making it difficult for the few people that are trying to defend this company.

Fourth, at the end, the same announcer says, "So call now." Now it has changed from the first "safe chance" to call to CALL NOW.

Relatively few school districts have fallen for BusRadio’s over-the-top sales pitch. Most transportation personnel know that adding noise to a school bus is not going to improve safety. Most also know that there is a growing concern over school bus drivers using cell phones as they drive their routes.

Look at these reports.

By NANCY ZUCKERBROD, AP Education Writer
Monday, February 12, 2007

The school bus industry has a message for bus drivers: Put down your cell phones.

The American School Bus Council plans to issue guidelines Tuesday calling for a ban on drivers using cell phones when the bus is moving or when students are getting on or off.

The group’s co-director, Pete Japikse, who also is the head of school transportation in Ohio, said the council will urge bus companies and school districts to enact the ban.

He said the research is clear that cell phones cause drivers to lose focus. "We don’t want those distractions to be part of the school bus driver’s environment," he said. For the rest of the article.


School Bus Drivers On Cell Phones

Friday, July 13, 2007
ABC11 Investigates

By Steve Daniels
(02/01/07 — RALEIGH-DURHAM) (WTVD) — Alarming video! Eyewitness News investigates school bus drivers talking on cell phones while transporting your children to school! Is this safe? And what will school officials have to say about it?

Eyewitness news is exposing school bus drivers who are on their cell phones while taking loads of kids to and from school.

We launched our investigation after getting tips from moms who are very concerned about school bus drivers. When we sent our undercover team across Wake County we found example after example of school bus drivers dialing and talking behind the wheel. For the rest of the story.


A very dedicated transportation supervisor sent me an article from School Bus Fleet, January 2007, page 11. It was entitled NTSB Urges Cell Phone Ban For Bus Drivers. This supervisor is extremely concerned about BusRadio and its potential to distract drivers.

From the article:

"The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is urging federal and state governments to prohibit school bus, transit bus and motorcoach drivers from using cell phones while driving those vehicles, except in emergencies."

"Professional drivers who have dozens of passengers’ lives entrusted to them should devote their full attention to their task," said NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker.

How can anyone read the above and then listen to BusRadio urge drivers to get their cell phones out and try to win some money and not be outraged?

If your school has BusRadio and you have obviously read all the above, you can’t claim you didn’t know BusRadio was talking to and offering your drivers prizes and cash. You can no longer claim to be surprised if a driver is distracted by BusRadio programming. You can no longer claim that you didn’t know BusRadio was urging drivers to use cell phones during their route.

If you are a school administrator, you have a duty to take action. If you are a parent, you have a moral responsibility to make sure your school officials do their duty.

Don’t wait around and think the BusRadio problem will be taken care of by others.