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School is back in session this week for Tampa Bay area schools and the roads are going to be packed.

There are not only going to be parents driving there kids to and from school there will be plenty of school buses on the roads. According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there have been more than 21,000 crashes involving buses in the state of Florida since 2012. It’s important to be alert and aware of the safety tips for school zones and school bus safety. 

Here are some great tips to keep you, your family and others safe this school year:

School Bus Safety Tips for Motorists

  • Be alert and watch for children especially near schools, bus stops, school buses and in school parking lots.
  • Children on bicycles can be unpredictable and can make sudden changes in direction. Be especially careful when children are present in school zones and residential areas.
  • Pay extra attention to lower speed limits in school zones.
  • Watch for and obey signals from school crossing guards.
  • Only drive or park in authorized areas to drop off or pick up children at school.
  • Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended. (See the different situations in the diagram below)
  • All drivers moving in either direction on a two-way street must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn. (see diagram, TWO-LANE)
  • On a highway divided by a paved median, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn. (see diagram, MULTI-LANE)
  • The only time traffic approaching an oncoming school bus does not need to stop, is if there is a raised barrier such as a concrete divider or at least five feet of unpaved space separating the lanes of traffic. (see diagram, DIVIDED HIGHWAY)
  • On a highway divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least 5 feet wide, drivers moving in the opposite direction do not have to stop for the bus (painted lines or pavement markings are not considered barriers). However, these motorists should slow down and watch for students loading or unloading from the bus. (see diagram, DIVIDED HIGHWAY)

School Bus Safety Tips for Parents and Children

  • Arrive at the bus stop with about five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • At bus stops, children should wait in a safe place away from the road. Never sit on the roadway or curb while waiting for your bus.
  • Make sure your children know their bus driver’s name and bus number.
  • Tell children to never speak to strangers at the bus stop or get into the car with a stranger. Children should tell parents, the bus driver and a teacher at school if a stranger tries to talk to them or pick them up.
  • Children should never walk behind a bus and should stay away from bus wheels at all times. When the bus stops, children should wait for the driver’s signal that it is safe to cross the road or board the bus.
  • Children should look both ways before crossing the street- look left, right and left again. Tell them to make eye contact to make sure the bus driver can see them as they cross the street.
  • On the bus, children should remain seated at all times and keep the aisle clear. Tell children not to put their head, hands or arms out the window.
  • Remind children to stop talking and remain silent when the bus comes to a railroad crossing so the driver can hear if a train is approaching.
  • Children should avoid any loud or disruptive behavior that could distract the bus driver from safely operating the bus.
  • Refer to the official Florida Driver License Handbook for more information on school bus safety.

Penalties for passing stopped school bus include:

  • 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.

[Source: ABC Action News]