TAMPA, Fla. — The start of the new school year means buses will be back on the roads carrying very precious cargo, but some motorists still break laws when it comes to sharing the road — and the consequences can be deadly.
According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2021 alone, there were 2,700 crashes that involved school buses. Find statistics for Tampa Bay area counties at the end of this article.
"Motorists should always be alert and drive with caution around school buses and in school zones where children may be present like schools, bus stops, school buses and school parking lots," FLHSMV says on their website. "Parents should also go over safety tips with their children to make sure they are safe on and around school buses and school zones."
As of January 2021, the penalties for failure to stop for a school bus doubled, according to FLHSMV.
The penalty for failure to stop for a school bus went from a minimum $100 to $200, and if a second offense is committed in five years, the person’s license will be suspended for up to one year.
The penalty for passing a school bus on the side that children enter and exit when the school bus displays a stop signal went from a minimum of $200 to $400, and if a second offense is committed in five years, the person’s license can be suspended up to two years.
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displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.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.
Crashes involving school buses in the Tampa Bay area in 2021, according to FLHSMV.
- Hillsborough: 196
- Pinellas: 108
- Polk: 100
- Pasco: 74
- Sarasota: 35
- Manatee: 33
- Citrus: 15
- Hernando: 20
- DeSoto: 4
- Highlands: 8
- Hardee: 3