San Francisco city leaders propose new tour bus rules for safer streets

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - For many visitors, tour buses are the best way to see San Francisco, with bus drivers giving their guests a narrated, up-close look at the sights and sounds of the city.

Now San Francisco is looking to muzzle some drivers to help keep their attention on the road. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took up a proposed ordinance to ban bus drivers from narrating their tours.

"If you're the tour bus operator and you're multitasking, you would necessarily be distracted," San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr told KTVU Tuesday. "I think it's consistent with what we're asking people to do in general - not to be doing anything else but driving."

The legislation comes as the city is highlighting April as National Distracted Driving Month. The proposed ordinance is part of the city's "Vision Zero" plan, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities within the next nine years.

In 2014, 18 pedestrians were killed by motorists, including 67 year-old Priscilla Moreto- a city worker struck and killed in October outside City Hall by a cable car tour bus.

"We think that it's important that tour bus companies that are profiting by showing off our beautiful city commit to hiring two staffers- one to narrate and one to drive," said Supervisor Jane Kim, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Some tour operators - such as Big Bus - already have two staffers aboard. Others, such as SF Adventure Tours CEO Eric Schaefer, say it's not necessary.

"The first priority for anyone on the road is always the safety of my guests and people around me," Schaefer. " It's something you worry about as a driver and as a driver-guide, you take very, very seriously. And so you're very, very careful when you're working out there."

Schaefer has worked as a driver-guide for five years. He plans to fight the proposed ordinance he says would put him out of business.

"There's a lot of really excellent tour companies that I know of, especially smaller, independent ones that work as driver-guides, and value the safety of the city," said Schaefer. "Hiring another person to do the guiding wouldn't make financial sense in my small situation."

Others disagree. "The cost of losing any human life in our city just isn't comparable," said Kim.

The Board of Supervisors plan to vote on the proposed ordinance Tuesday, April 6th. If passed here, supporters hope to take it statewide.