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With the Kids Back in School, Driver Safety Awareness is Key

The end of summer is here and schools are ramping up for the start of a new year. Over 4,200 schools make up the approximately 76 public school districts in Florida. This includes Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Broward County Public Schools, which, in terms of enrollment, are the first and second largest school districts in the state (and in the top ten nationwide). With a state-wide enrollment hovering around 2.7 million students in grades Pre-K through 12, there are a lot of children that have to be transported to and from school five days a week.

Back to school time means there are more buses on the road – and more kids near it. Drivers can increase safety by:

  • Not speeding in school zones
  • Not passing buses that are loading or unloading children
  • Not blocking crosswalks
  • Not assuming that kids are paying attention
  • Envisioning a ten-foot zone around any stopped bus encountered and staying out of that space.
  • Drivers should always pay attention to pedestrians, but being particularly aware of students entering and exiting buses, as well as walking across or along the street, is something every motorist can do. At the beginning and end of the school day, and when passing through school zones, simple steps such as not speeding or not driving while distracted can greatly increase safety. Under state law, school zones may establish a speed limit as low as 15 miles per hour during the times in which students are either arriving for or leaving from school. Exceeding the posted limit can result in a steep fine as well as points added to the driver’s record.

    There are also consequences for passing a school bus when it has stopped to drop off or pick up passengers. Florida law says that the driver of a vehicle “shall, upon approaching any school bus which displays a stop signal, bring such vehicle to a full stop while the bus is stopped, and the vehicle shall not pass the school bus until the signal has been withdrawn.” The only time that drivers can legally pass a stopped school bus that has its lights flashing and its stop signs extended is when there is a five-foot barrier or unpaved median between the side of the road they are on and the side of the road the bus is on.

    Passing a school bus is not only illegal, it’s dangerous. The bus needs more room to maneuver than a passenger vehicle requires, and the children who are getting on and off need more room to safely cross the street or the shoulder. When entering a crosswalk area, drive slowly and be prepared to stop. Stop far enough back that you don’t block the crosswalk with your car and so that other drivers in other lanes can see the child in time to stop. Don’t assume that any child knows how to safely cross the street or won’t do so unsafely if in a hurry. Younger children may lack the capacity to determine how fast cars are moving or to understand traffic laws, while older children may be distracted by mobile devices or earbuds/headphones. One of the easiest changes you can make is to give yourself more travel time if you are driving during peak school transportation hours.

    If you have school-age children at home, make a discussion about bus and pedestrian safety part of their back-to-school routine. Caution them not to act carelessly near traffic, to line up away from the street, and to wait for a signal from the bus driver before crossing the road or stepping onto the shoulder.

    We Can Help

    If you or someone you love has been injured by a careless or negligent motorist, you need an experienced attorney to effectively represent your interests. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski & Funt, P.A. has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless traffic collision victims, and we are highly experienced in handling a wide range of auto and truck accident cases. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a case evaluation form.

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