The end of Florida’s 2012 legislative session on Friday also signaled the end of three bills the student transportation industry had been closely watching: House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 344, to allow school bus advertisements for revenue-generating purposes, and SB 416, to ban texting while behind the wheel.
While the companion bills authorizing ads on public school buses drew overwhelming support in January, they died in committee. This is the second time that bills permitting school bus ads languished in committee without a final vote. When committee chairs do not open discussion on certain bills, it essentially kills them.
If passed, HB 19/SB 344 would have amended the state code to authorize commercial advertisements on school bus exteriors and to develop signage and equipment standards. Fifty percent of the revenues were slated to help cover transportation costs, and 25 percent were allocated to programs at districts’ discretion.
In January 2011 the Florida Association for Pupil Transportation published a position paper in opposition to school bus ads, arguing that they would be a distraction to other motorists who should be on the lookout for school children.
Meanwhile, a bill designed to combat distracted driving, SB 416, failed to move forward in the House after gaining some traction in the Senate. The proposal would have allowed police officers to tack on a ticket for text messaging to motorists pulled over for other driving offenses.
But Florida did not join the 35 other states, including Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia with laws prohibiting all drivers from texting while behind the wheel. Only three states have specific laws banning school bus drivers from text messaging (Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas), according to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Individual school districts may prohibit school bus operators from using cell phones while driving and many states ban the practice by publish such regulations in their bus driver manuals.
This past December the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that all 50 states and the District of Columbia outlaw the use of all forms of wireless communication while driving.