School is officially back in session in Central Florida, which means drivers will be sharing the road with school buses transporting children to and from school. Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings, but it is even more important when around school buses, while in school zones, near bus stops, and anywhere children may be.
Driving Safety Tips at Central Florida Bus Stops
Bus stops can be a dangerous place for children. The amount of school bus accidents in Florida is on the rise, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. In fact, there has been a 16 percent increase in school-bus related accidents in Florida, from 2012 to 2015. Drivers should never assume that children will look before crossing the street to get to their bus, and they should not assume that children will stay on the sidewalk while waiting at their stop. The best rule of thumb is to drive defensively and well below the speed limit while passing children standing at their bus stop. Prepare to stop at any given notice and make sure you are aware of your own surroundings when passing.
When approaching a bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and the STOP sign extended, drivers are required to stop if on a two-way street. Drivers should remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the bus’s STOP signal has been withdrawn. If on a highway divided by a paved median, drivers that are moving in either direction must also stop if the bus has its STOP signal displayed, remaining stopped until the road is clear of children and the bus STOP arm is withdrawn. The only time drivers who are approaching an oncoming school bus do not need to stop is if a raised barrier, such as a concrete divider, and at least five feet of unpaved space between the lanes of traffic exists. This fact, however, does not mean drivers do not need to be careful. Drivers should always reduce their speed and watch for children who are getting on or off the bus.
Penalties for Passing a Stopped School Bus in Florida
Drivers who violate these rules and pass a stopped school bus are subject to strict penalties, and understandably so. These violators will receive a minimum fine of $165, but if the driver passes on the side where children enter or exit the bus, the minimum fine goes up to $265. The driver will also receive four points on his or her driver’s license and will be required to complete a basic Driver Improvement Course upon conviction.
Under the Cameron Mayhew Act, which was enacted in July 1, 2017 increases the minimum penalty if a driver illegally passes a stopped school bus, which results in the injury or death of another person, the minimum penalty significantly increases. The fine increases to $1,500, and the driver will receive six points on his or her driver’s license. The violator will also be required to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital and participate in a victim’s impact panel session or attend a FLHSMV approved driver improvement course. The driver will also have his or her license suspended for a minimum of one year.
Additional Safety Tips for Drivers
Bus stops are not the only locations where drivers need to be cautious. School zones, the school parking lot, and any areas where children will naturally be are all places where extra caution needs to be exercised. School zones post lower speed limits for this very reason. Always be sure to lower your speed when driving in a school zone. If a crossing guard is present, make sure you obey all signals to allow for children to safely cross the street.
Safety Tips for Children at Bus Stops
Parents and guardians should also prepare their children if they will be riding a bus to school. It is important to educate the young students in your family regarding how to behave at the bus stop. Make sure they are taught to look both ways before crossing the street to their bus. Once at the stop, make sure they stay at a safe distance from the road or curb and do not walk towards the bus until it is fully stopped, and the driver opens the door. Children should also never walk behind the bus and should always stay clear from the four wheels of the bus. If they need to cross the street to get on the bus, tell them to make sure that they look both ways before crossing the street and to make direct eye contact with the bus driver to ensure he or she can see them as they cross towards the bus.
Help Make Our Central Florida School Zones Safe for Everyone!
Despite warnings, communication and the best of intentions, accidents can still happen as a result of someone else’s negligence. At the personal injury law firm of Michael T. Gibson, P.A., we want you and your loved ones to have a safe return to school this year. Our Orlando personal injury attorneys are committed to helping children and families who have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence.
Whether you have been involved in a car accident, bicycle or pedestrian accident, it is important that you contact an experienced Orlando bus accident lawyer immediately. Our experienced team of accident attorneys can help you obtain compensation for medical bills, future medical treatment, loss of wages, pain and suffering, etc. Feel free to fill out our quick contact form on our website to discuss your legal options in greater detail.