As the nation gets closer to the start of a new school year, counties in Florida are preparing for a very different return to school. While some areas will only offer virtual education, others will offer a traditional or hybrid return. Any option that involves students being physically present in the building calls for a reminder of transportation safety for these children. This is the first time in several months that busses will be back out on the roads. As school busses make their way around their old routes, be sure to practice the following safety tips and keep an ear out for upcoming changes to Florida law regarding school bus safety.
SAFETY TIPS WHEN DRIVING NEAR A SCHOOL BUS
- Never assume children will look both ways or stay on sidewalks when entering or exiting a bus.
- Stay alert and always double-check to make sure all children are accounted for before driving.
- Drive slowly and be mindful of all changing speed limits while driving in different zones.
- If a bus is stopped with red lights on and the STOP sign ejected, you must come to a complete stop. Do not continue driving until the sign is retracted.
- Listen to the school crossing guard. He or she may see or know something you do not.
- If you are dropping off your own student, be sure to only park or drive in the designated areas to do this.
- Watch out for kids on bicycles. Anticipate sudden changes from them.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T STOP FOR A STOPPED SCHOOL BUS?
Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles states the penalties include the following:
- Moving violation subject to citation;
- Requirement to complete a basic Driver Improvement Course upon conviction;
- Four points on your driver license; and
- Minimum fine of $165, if you pass on the side where children enter and exit, you will receive a minimum fine of $265.
Penalties for passing a stopped school bus that causes or results in the serious bodily injury or the death of another person include:
- Serving 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital;
- Participating in a victim’s impact panel session, or if such a panel does not exist, attending a FLHSMV approved driver improvement course;
- Six points on your driver license;
- Suspension of license for a minimum of one year; and
- $1,500 fine.
TIPS FOR PARENTS OF BUS-RIDERS
- Designate a safe spot for your child to wait for the bus. Make sure the spot is out of harm’s way but visible for the bus driver.
- Practice arriving at the bus stop 5-10 minutes early so that your child never has to run in the street to catch the bus.
- Be clear with your child about who can pick them up from the bus stop. Remind your child to not speak to strangers or get into their cars.
- Teach your child to look both ways multiple times before crossing the street.
- Explain why it is important to listen to the bus driver at all times, even when you are off the bus and waiting to cross the street, if needed.
- Practice being quiet when coming upon a railroad crossing. They will practice these drills on the bus, but help your child be a leader by teaching him or her the rules of the road early on in your own vehicle.
- Teach your child to remain seated at all times in the bus seat.
- Explain why it is important to be quiet on the bus and to never do anything that would distract the bus driver.
SOCIAL DISTANCING ON SCHOOL BUSSES
The number of COVID-19 cases have not deterred many school districts from opening this fall. While social distancing inside the school building may be handled with creativity and patience, the same cannot easily be said for school busses. Most busses hold between 65-77 students, and the idea this year is that only two kids per seat would be allowed. That means there will only be about 50 kids per bus run on average, resulting in probably multiple bus runs. Students will have to wear masks and busses will have to be sanitized between runs. If you have a student who will be riding the bus this year, make sure to go over these new guidelines as soon as possible. The earlier you set expectations with your student, the easier it will be for the child to adjust to what will surely be a very different school year.
YOUR NEXT STEPS IF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED AN ACCIDENT WITH A SCHOOL BUS
If you or a loved one have been involved in a school bus accident, reach out to us today to get started on the compensation you deserve. Contact us at Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh today to set up a consultation to discuss your needs.