With thousands of students returning to class this fall, school officials and the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office (HCSO) are gearing up to remind as well as warn parents, students and motorists about the necessity of putting safety first, especially when it comes to the various forms of transportation.
Hillsborough County alone boasts of more than 207,000 students with nearly 92,000 bussed to and from school daily, while the rest are dropped off and picked up in a car or make their way to school by walking or riding a bicycle.
While the form of transportation may differ, one thing is sure; there will be much more traffic thanks to the nearly 1,000 school buses that were added.
“The buses will do their practice runs on Monday, August 24,” said Hillsborough County Public School spokesperson, Tanya Arja, adding that the buses do the practice run during their normal route time so they can drive along in normal traffic conditions.
“We are reminding all drivers to keep their eyes open as students will be walking along sidewalks and in neighborhoods,” she said.
To keep students safe, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office also made arrangements to beef up its presence on the roadways as deputies are scheduled to be out in force, in patrol cruisers, motorcycles and unmarked vehicles keeping a close eye on motorists who don’t know or don’t heed state laws regarding stopping for a school bus.
According to a Florida Department of Education survey conducted in 2012, more than 21,000 drivers illegally passed school buses on a one day period, which represents more than 3.7 million possible violations by motorists in Florida during the 180-day school year.
Supported by a video presentation on its website appropriately called “Got Brakes?” HCSO is reminding motorists of important rules for when they do and don’t have to stop for a school bus and to make sure that the season will commence as well as continue with the utmost student-safety in mind.
Drivers who pass a school bus illegally on the left side commit a moving violation, punishable under Chapter 318, Florida Statutes (FS).
“The goal is to keep our children safe through education and enforcement,” Officer Larry McKinnon said.
For more information on Florida’s school bus laws, visit www.flhsmv.gov.
The “Got Brakes?” video may be watched by clicking on the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
On the Roadways, drivers should:
-For drivers the first and most important tip is to never attempt to pass a bus when it is stopped or preparing to stop.
– Leave adequate space between your vehicle and the bus.
– Stop if you are moving in the same direction as a stopped bus.
– Remain stopped until the bus withdraws its Stop sign.
– Be on the lookout for kids around school bus loading and unloading areas.
– Obey all traffic signs and signals.
-Pay attention; avoid distractions.
-Do your part to make every school crossing a safe place for children to walk.
– Pay attention to speed limits, school crossing guards and unpredictable children, since these situations may require you to reduce your speed or stop.
-When children (walking, bicycling or skating) or school crossing guards are present in a crosswalk, drivers must yield or stop at the marked stop line and without stopping in the crosswalk. It is the driver’s responsibility to avoid colliding with pedestrians.
At the Bus Stop, students should: -Always walk to the bus stop. Never run.
-Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left facing traffic.
– Never speak to strangers at the bus stop or get into a stranger’s car.
– Wait for the bus to arrive, watch for red flashing lights and the stop arm to extend. Look left, right and left again before crossing the street.
-Buckle up if your school bus has safety belts.