Summer is over for the more than 2.5 million Florida school-age children and teens. Public schools across the Treasure Coast and South Florida are back in session, and with that come increased congestion and traffic in neighborhoods and on the roadways. Florida residents driving during these busy hours should be extra careful when driving near school buses. As students get used to their route and get acquainted with their fellow riders, they may be darting in and out of traffic, running for the bus and loitering along the streets, posing dangers to themselves and others.
According to the NHTSA or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, since 2000 1,386 people have died in school bus-related crashes, or an average of 139 fatalities per year. In addition, 130 school-age pedestrians (below 19 years old) died in crashes that involved school transportation. Either school buses or vehicles that functioned as school buses struck roughly three-fourths (73 percent), and other vehicles involved in the crashes hit 27 percent.
Each year, roughly 24 school-age children die in traffic crashes involving school transportation—11 are occupants of school buses and 13 pedestrians. In Florida, there were 10 school bus-related fatalities in 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available.
To prevent injuries or deaths to Florida children and others around school buses, consider the following safety guidelines from the NHTSA:
- School buses will be in your neighborhood — always back out of your driveway slowly and be on the lookout for children walking or biking.
- Be alert when driving in a school zone where there is a high concentration of children and parents.
- Slow down and watch for children crossing the street, walking in the street or darting across the street.
Learn and obey the school bus laws in Florida. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) explains that school buses are equipped red flashing lights, as well as yellow flashing lights. The purpose of the flashing yellow lights is to warn other drivers that the bus will soon be stopping to load or unload passengers. Flashing yellow lights do not mean that you have to stop—but that you should slow down and be prepared to come to a complete stop as soon as the red lights flash and the stop arm is extended. Do not start moving again until the bus driver retracts the stop arm and turns off the flashing red lights.
The Florida Department of Education has initiated a toll-free number, 1-888-STOP-4-Kids, for citizens to report motorists who pass school buses stopped to pick up or discharge students. This initiative, with help from the NHTSA, is designed to alert the driver of the violation and of the potentially tragic consequences of not stopping for a school bus.
Children may not be paying attention, but Florida drivers should always remain alert and drive defensively and safely to prevent serious injuries. If you see a driver that fails to stop properly for a school bus, report them through the Stop-4-Kids initiative.
If your child gets injured as a result of a careless or negligent driver, contact us to find out about your legal rights.
For help with your Florida car or bus accident claim, trust the law firm of Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney. We serve victims of automobile crashes and bus accidents in South Florida and the Treasure Coast, including in Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, Stuart, Jupiter, Okeechobee, Vero Beach and Palm Beach.
Call 1-800-299-8878 now to speak with a compassionate Florida injury and accident attorney or fill out our online contact form.