Digital distraction for coach hire companies and their bus drivers

Friday, January 03, 2014

While preparing the expansion for our coach hire comparison platform RentAutobus from Spain to the Netherlands, I conducted a series of interviews with informal leaders in the bus rental sector in Amsterdam and other places in Holland, too.

I also had the pleasure of talking with Frans Schuitemaker. Frans is the director of the largest coach hire company in the Netherlands, called Oad. During our conversation he explained to me  that according to recent investigations it has become very clear that digital distractions are much more likely than alcohol to cause a bus driver to have an accident. His comments kept me thinking for soem time but recently this transport security threat has been in the often in the news.

Digitally distracted bus and coach drivers in the media

In this last month alone two related news items have drawn my attention. In the video below you can see a Connexxion bus driver filming with one hand while steering with the other hand. The 1st ten seconds show how the bus driver is filming the streets of his route in Haarlem, a city at about 20 km distance from Amsterdam. By coincidence there was a reporter from a local TV station on the bus who filmed the driver while the driver was filming himself.  The reporter who filmed this event also interviewed passengers and asked them for their comments.

The other incident is shown in the video of a bus driver who is texting while driving her daily school transport route. She’s driving a bus full of children with only one hand on the wheel and using the other hand and her attention to write a text message.
This is shocking to see, specially if you have kids yourself. Would you like your children to transported in a rented coach with a bus driver that is texting or checking his Facebook account?

See the video here below.

Government action towards bus drivers digital distractions while driving

In the Netherlands this risk and cause of traffic accidents is high on the agenda of police and government institutions. A fine of € 220 per incident for handheld calling behind the wheel has already been in place in Holland for a few years. Recently an awareness campaign has started and billboards like this one here below have been placed on the sides of the highways.


Above billboard shows various social media icons combined with the text message ‘can wait till’ and an icon for ‘home’.

How can a coach hire comparison platform react to this security threat?

We as operators of the multi-country  and  private transportation and coach hire comparison portal RentAutobus are aware that security issues like this one weigh heavily on the minds of travelers and tourists who are planning to rent minibuses or coaches with drivers. What should we do? Should we rely on local European laws and local law enforcement to handle this issue just as they handle other security issues? Or should we ask our private hire transport partners specific to commit to not using any smart phones during driving?  We don’t specifically ask our coach and bus operators not to cross any red lights or stopping signs either. Those laws are widely accepted, in Europe at least, and it would be childish to specifically ask them to commit to it. As laws vary across the various countries, we are considering to add an ‘abstention from digital distraction promise’  to the security part of the service and facilities offered to the clients.

Minibus and coach drivers caught using smart phones while driving

So what do you think? Are your own hands clean in this matter? Do you ever check your phone when behind the wheel? Do you use your phone only when driving alone or also when driving passengers? How does the law and law enforcement in your country react to this?
So would you fire your bus driver if he was caught using his phone or other digital device when driving school children or other groups? What would you do?