By Tamas Mondovics
The bittersweet start of the school year means increased rush-hour traffic, joined by the 1,100 buses on area roads transporting more than 91,000 students daily through early-morning and mid-afternoon traffic.
Back to school also brings an increased presence of HCSO deputies out in force, in patrol cruisers, motorcycles and unmarked vehicles keeping watch for motorists who don’t know and don’t heed state laws regarding stopping for a school bus.
In an effort to keep students safe, the Sheriff’s Office launched its “Got Brakes?” public awareness and enforcement campaign aimed to educate motorists about when they do and do not have to stop for a school bus.
The campaign urges motorists to consider several scenarios that reads: “Divided highway: Do I stop? Continuous turn lane: Do I not stop? Grass median: Do I stop or not?” and concludes with “Got Brakes? Good, use them when a school bus is close.”
Unfortunately, while Florida Motor Vehicles Laws require that motorists stop upon approaching any school bus which displays its flashing red lights and has its stop signs extended, it has been reported that more than two million Florida motorists have illegally passed a school bus during the school year.
The reports said that there are more than 11,500 violations on a typical school day, each of which could cost motorists an average of $260.
With safety a top priority, a few tips for drivers to keep in mind when school buses are present, and to ensure students safety at the bus stop is offered by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, (FDOT).
HCSO spokesperson, Larry McKinnon, emphasized that motorists are well to remember that drivers who pass a school bus illegally on the left side commit a moving violation, punishable under Chapter 318, Florida Statutes (FS).
He added that drivers who pass a school bus illegally on the right side where students enter or exit the bus, commit a moving violation, punishable under Chapter 318, FS and, are subject to a mandatory hearing.
“The goal is to keep our children safe through education and enforcement,” McKinnon said.
For more information on Florida’s school bus laws, visit: http://floridaschoolbussafety.gov or www.sdhc.k12.fl.us or www.dot.state.fl.us, or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbEkboRbkSI.