Four former school bus drivers in Knox County, Tenn., have been charged with using electronic devices while operating their vehicles.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports that the four were named in recently unsealed grand jury presentments. They are accused of using the devices during the spring semester while driving buses for the Knox County school system.
If convicted, the drivers face mandatory 30-day jail terms under a state law passed following the 2014 death of two students and a teacher’s aide in Knox County caused by a driver who was texting while driving.
Charged in the case are: Robert Eugene Newman, 68; Kellie Rudd, 47; Marvin Lee Hawkins, 36; and Margo Flory-Hicks, age unavailable.
The cases are Knox County’s first legal test of that law, and the second in the state. A Hamilton County grand jury in March leveled the charge — along with vehicular homicide — in a fatal school bus crash in Chattanooga in December 2016 that killed six children.
Tennessee already had a law criminalizing using a cell phone or other electronic device while behind the wheel of a school bus hauling children, picking them up or dropping them off. But it had no teeth other than a fine.
After the 2014 deaths, Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen asked the Tennessee District Attorney General’s Conference to press for a tougher law. The result is a law that makes it a misdemeanor punishable by a mandatory 30-day jail term.