As students in 11 local counties head back to school on Thursday, police and road crews want drivers to remember the rules of sharing the road with buses, and the Florida Department of Transportation is reminding parents of simple ways to keep students safe at the bus stop.
More than 40 children walking to and from school or the bus stop are hit by cars every day.
Parents can help keep children safe by making sure they are dressed appropriately in light, bright, even reflective clothing.
Tell bicycle riders not to wear a hood so they can see and be seen in traffic.
An easy thing to teach children is “5 and 5″ — that means to be 5 giant steps away from the street and/or bus and wait or “take 5″ to get off the bus.
The bus and other traffic should be completely stopped before they step out of the bus.
Also, teach students to never run after the school bus once it has left the stop.
You also want to remind them to stay away from the bus wheels at all times because the driver can’t see them. If they drop something, tell them to ask the driver for help. They shouldn’t pick anything up.
Finally, remind them not to play around while waiting for the bus. They should always be attentive and avoid distractions. Listening to music or playing on a phone or game could be deadly.
When to stop for buses
As for drivers and school buses, drivers must remember that they are required to stop when approaching a school bus that has its red lights flashing and stop arm extended.
The only exception is on a divided highway with a raised divider, like a grass or concrete median or guardrail. In this case, cars behind the bus must stop. Cars in the lanes on the opposite side of the median can keep driving but should slow down.
When it comes to a two-lane street, all drivers moving in either direction must stop and remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the school bus retracts its stop arm.
If a bus stops on a multi-lane road without a median, drivers on both sides must stop.
This is typically when drivers break the law most. It’s important to remember, passing a stopped bus is illegal and you can be fined for it.
It’s also important to remember it’s the law to be hands-free and put down your phone in a school zone.
Reminders from FDOT
School Zones and Speed Limits: Be aware of reduced speed limits in school zones. Observe the speed limits and slow down to ensure the safety of children crossing the streets. Keep in mind, in Florida it is prohibited to use a handheld mobile device within a school zone or a construction zone.
Crosswalk Safety: Parents can encourage children to use designated crosswalks when crossing the road. Drivers in Florida must stop for any pedestrian in a designated crosswalk. Pedestrians have the right of way in a crosswalk. Additionally, if students are biking, they should dismount their bicycle and walk their bicycle at a designated crosswalk.
Bicycle Safety: If your student rides a bicycle to school, ensure they wear a properly fitted helmet and obey traffic rules. Encourage them to use bike lanes or designated paths where available. As the days get shorter, it is a good practice to have your student use appropriate lighting. A white light should be at the front of the bicycle and a red light should be at the rear.
Distraction-Free Driving: For all roadway users, it is important to eliminate distractions when you are operating a vehicle. Fewer distractions inside the vehicle means you can be prepared for traffic shifts, unexpected motorist behavior and adherence to the speed limit.
Be Patient: Expect increased traffic around schools during drop-off and pick-up times. Plan ahead and allow extra time on the roadway so you are not rushing or becoming frustrated on the road. Our region is growing and new drivers, those unfamiliar with the roads, may be joining the morning commute. Make a plan to drive safe and consider using the FL 511 smartphone application to receive push alerts regarding traffic impacts. This is a free service from FDOT that includes construction information, police activity on the roadway and other traffic slowdowns to equip motorists with information to improve their commute.