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As Children Go Back To School This August, Focus On Child Safety

~ DHSMV’s Child Safety Awareness campaign reminds motorists to protect Florida’s most precious cargo ~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) recognizes August as Child Safety Awareness Month and is reminding motorists to focus on child safety on Florida roads.

Preliminarily in 2016, there were 134,790 children under the age of 18 in crashes in Florida, resulting in 1,996 serious bodily injuries and 161 fatalities, a 32 percent increase in fatalities from 2014. To ensure the safety of Florida’s children, DHSMV will be educating the public on occupant protection and proper seat restraints, safety in and around school zones and school buses, bicycle and pedestrian safety, heatstroke prevention and teen driver safety.

“This month, as children head back to school, it is critical that motorists adjust their driving behavior to account for more children on the road,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “Slow down in school zones, follow instructions from crossing guards and properly stop for school buses. No trip in a vehicle is routine, especially with children. Children are observant and modeling safe driving behavior may just save their life down the road.”

Florida law requires that all drivers and all passengers under the age of 18 wear a seat belt. Law enforcement issued almost 9,000 citations last year to motorists for not properly securing children in a vehicle. Motorists who need assistance identifying, installing and using proper child restraints may contact the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) for help. FHP has members who are car seat certified and, over the past year, has provided 71 car seat safety checks and installations. Motorists may make an appointment and bring their current car seat to a local FHP Troop station for a free car seat check.

“FHP encourages you to drive responsibly and ensure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up, including passengers and children in the back seat,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP). “Remember, the best child seat is one that fits your child, fits your car, and that drivers will use correctly every time. One of the Florida Highway Patrol’s primary goals is to save lives through education and enforcement to ensure you make it to your destination safely.”

As children travel to and from school, motorists must ensure they arrive safely by obeying school zone speed limits, remaining attentive around child pedestrians and bicyclists, and properly stopping for school buses. As of July 1, 2017, the Cameron Mayhew Act increases the minimum penalty for drivers who illegally pass a school bus, resulting in injury or death, to a $1,500 fine and a one-year driver license suspension.

“Our school buses carry Florida’s most precious cargo, our children. In 2016, Cameron Mayhew lost his life walking to his school bus, a devastating and completely preventable loss. I am proud to have sponsored HB 1239, the Cameron Mayhew Act, to help prevent these tragedies and keep our children safe,” said Representative Dane Eagle.

“This August, I join the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to recognize Child Safety Awareness month. As children head back to school, all drivers should remain alert in school zones and around school buses,” said Senator Kathleen Passidomo.

DHSMV offers additional safety tips and downloaded resources for parents and children to keep kids safe in and around vehicles. Visit the DHSMV’s website www.flhsmv.gov/ChildSafety for more information and use the hashtag #ChildSafetyFL throughout the month to see and share important child safety information.

Child Safety Awareness Month is a partnership with the DHSMV, Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Education, Florida Department of Health, Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and AAA – The Auto Club Group to educate the public on all aspects of child safety so everyone can Arrive Alive.

“Working with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in Child Safety Awareness Month is an important opportunity for DCF to help increase knowledge and awareness in communities across the state to help keep children safe,” said Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll. “Every individual, whether a caregiver, mentor, or neighbor, plays an important role in making sure the next generation of Floridians are safe and healthy.”

“Every student deserves to arrive safely to school,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “With the school year quickly approaching, it is a great time to remind students, parents, educators, and the public to be diligent about safety, particularly around school buses and in school zones. We are pleased to join the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to promote Child Safety Awareness Month in Florida.”

State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. Celeste Philip said, “There is nothing more tragic than losing a child. It is critical to have a system in place to ensure that infants and children aren’t left behind in our vehicles, particularly during these hot summer months.”

“Protecting Florida’s future by providing a safe environment for our youth is a primary goal of the Florida Sheriffs Association. On behalf of our Florida Sheriffs, I fully endorse and support the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle’s Child Safety Awareness campaign,” said Sheriff Mike Adkinson, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

“As police officers, our job is to protect the vulnerable – the children who visit Florida and who call our state home,” said Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad, President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “With millions of drivers and vehicles, there are countless opportunities for Floridians to pay attention and better protect children in cars, on bicycles, on school buses and on foot. As busy as we are in our lives, we should pay particular attention to child safety when we’re driving because we cannot allow our younger population to be placed in danger because of the distractions of daily life.”

“FCAAP is looking forward to continue to work with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to protect children from preventable injuries and deaths. This will be done by working together to raise awareness about the proper use of child safety restraints, safety in and around school zones and school buses and preventing child heatstroke in cars,” said Madeline M. Joseph, MD, President of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“As millions of families gear up to go back to school, we wish them all a safe year,” said Amy Stracke, Managing Director, Traffic Safety Advocacy for AAA – The Auto Club Group and Executive Director of the Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation.  “We are also grateful to the thousands of AAA School Safety Patrollers on duty throughout elementary schools in Florida that help protect children and keep them out of harm’s way.”

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education and enforcement. The Department is leading the way to a safer Florida through the efficient and professional execution of its core mission: the issuance of driver licenses, vehicle tags and titles and operation of the Florida Highway Patrol. To learn more about DHSMV and the services offered, visit www.flhsmv.gov, follow us on Twitter @FLHSMV or find us on Facebook.