Video of texting bus driver reveals loophole in California distracted driving law

Legal for bus drivers to drive, talk and text

SAN DIEGO - When you or your children get on a bus, you have the expectation of safety. That is why cellphone video of a bus driver in Florida is sparking outrage across the country.

The video, which was recorded by a student, shows the bus driver texting while driving. At one point, she maneuvers the vehicle with her knee while she texts and drifts out of her lane.

The bus driver in the video has been suspended by the school district in Florida, but San Diego attorney and law professor at the University of Phoenix Criminal Justice Department Coleen Cusack says the act of the bus driver using her phone is not against the law.

She tells 10News the video is exposing some major loopholes in distracted driving laws. 

"What's more outrageous and what people don't know is that in California it's not illegal for school bus drivers to be on their cellphone as long as what they're communicating has some bearing on their work," said Cusack.

She tells 10News the law is not only unsafe, but unconstitutional. 

Cusack says exempting one group of drivers in charge of numerous lives and citing others is discriminatory, so she is challenging the California state vehicle code 23123 that allows bus drivers exemption from the cell phone distracted driving law. 

"Anybody, any driver who goes to court and challenges this on that basis can walk away without paying their ticket," said Cusack.

Cusack told 10News although bus or transit drivers can use their phones while driving, companies can make their own determinations.

10News checked several local transit companies and school districts. 

The North County Transit District allows its drivers to have a phone on board, as long as it is put away. The Poway Unified School District's bus drivers must strictly adhere to a policy of no cellphone use while driving. 

Cusack says that the law also exempts cellphone use for all drivers making emergency calls and for all emergency responders. 

With those kinds of exceptions, Cusack says anyone can get out of a cellphone driving infraction in court. 

"I would like to see a law that applies to everybody equally, that doesn't make exceptions to certain occupations especially the occupation we trust our children with," she said.

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