FLHSMV Reminds Drivers: Child Safety Starts With You
~ FLHSMV is promoting Child Safety Awareness Month, safety tips throughout August. ~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s back-to-school time for many students across Florida, and during August, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), its division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), and partners in safety throughout the state will be emphasizing the important role parents, grandparents, caregivers, and motorists have in keeping Florida’s children safe when traveling to or from school.
Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death among children nationwide. Last year, Florida saw a 30% decrease in children involved in crashes yet a 32% increase in child fatalities from crashes when compared to 2019.
“School buses will soon be back on the road transporting our leaders of tomorrow, kids will be walking in and around school zones, and parents will add school drop off and pick ups back into their daily routines,” said FLHSMV Executive Director, Terry L. Rhodes. “As we prepare our families and community for this upcoming school year, we must remain vigilant around school buses and in school zones. As a reminder, the penalties for failing to stop for a school bus doubled this year; and it is against the law to use a phone in a handheld manner while driving in a designated school crossing or school zone.”
“As our children head back to school, the Florida Highway Patrol reminds you to slow down in school zones and ensure everyone in the vehicle is properly buckled,” said Colonel Gene Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Whether your child is carpooling to school or you’re picking up your niece or nephew from daycare, we are all responsible for making sure our children are properly restrained every trip, every time to keep them safe.”
In 2020, nearly 50% of child passengers killed in vehicle crashes in Florida were not wearing any type of restraint – a 127% increase from 2019. A seat belt or child restraint is a vehicle’s most important safety feature, but it only works if they are used and used correctly, every time. Florida law requires the use of seat belts or child restraint devices by drivers of motor vehicles, all front seat passengers, and all children under 18 riding in a vehicle. Additionally, Florida law requires children age 5 and under to be secured properly in a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device.
FLHSMV is joined by many state partners to keep Florida’s children safe:
“This month, it is paramount that all Floridians share the responsibility of being attentive and vigilant by exhibiting safe and mindful driving habits each time we’re on the road,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault. “I urge all drivers to be alert on the roadways and always watch for children who may be walking or biking, remember to use the correct seat for children to ride safely and never leave a child unattended in a vehicle for any reason.”
“The Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) is proud to partner with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles during Child Safety Awareness Month,” said Daytona Beach Shores Director Stephan Dembinsky, FPCA President. “We would like to remind drivers to remain focused on driving, not their phones, always watching for children at play. Thousands of our children are transported to and from school on buses every day, we would urge drivers to always stop for school buses and to slow down while traveling through school zones. To our parents, please use appropriate child restraint devices and stop by your local police department if you need help installing a child seat in your vehicle. And most importantly, never leave a child alone in a vehicle.”
“One of the Florida Sheriffs Association’s primary goals involves the protection of our youth. With many families traveling throughout our state during summer vacation, traffic safety becomes critical to achieving our goal. Accordingly, on behalf of our Florida sheriffs, I fully support the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ Child Safety Campaign during the month of August,” said Sheriff Bobby Schultz, President, Florida Sheriffs Association.
“With many students returning to school in-person for the first time in over a year, it is more critical than ever to keep safety in mind,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “A recent AAA survey found that 20% of Florida respondents have accidentally or intentionally cut off a school bus for driving too slow and another 22% have driven over the speed limit while in an active school zone.”
FLHSMV’s back-to-school safety checklist:
Secure their future – buckle up and choose the right seat
- Seat belts save lives and are required to be worn by all drivers, front-right passengers, and anyone under the age of 18; however, FLHSMV strongly recommends seat belt usage for all ages.
- The best car seat is the one that fits your child’s size, is correctly installed, fits well in your car, and is used properly every time you drive.
- Be sure to read the seat’s instruction manual and the portion of your vehicle’s owner manual when installing a car seat in your vehicle.
- Remember to check for car seat and booster seat recalls and sign up to receive any potential alerts in the future.
Stop for school buses and slow down in school zones
- As of January 1, 2021, the penalties for failing to stop for a school bus and passing a stopped school bus on the side where children enter and exit doubled. It is imperative that all motorists properly stop for school buses so all of Florida’s children can arrive at school or home safely.
- Using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner while driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone area is against the law and extremely dangerous.
- Be alert and watch for children especially near schools, bus stops, school buses and in school parking lots. Pay extra attention to the lower speed limits in school zones. Only drive or park in authorized areas to drop off or pick up children at school.
Move safely together – look out before you step out
- Always walk on the sidewalk if there is one. If no sidewalks are present, walk against the direction of traffic so that you can see oncoming vehicles.
- Cross the roadway where pedestrians are expected, at corners or in crosswalks, and watch for traffic when crossing the street.
- Pay attention. Avoid headphones so that you can hear the traffic and pedestrians around you. Never text or look at your phone when crossing the street.
- As routines change, it’s imperative to remain vigilant and make sure all children are out of the vehicle and accounted for before leaving. Put your purse, phone, or shoe in the backseat as a reminder to check.
- Never leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle. Florida temperatures are hot and will rapidly increase in minutes, even if parked in the shade or with a window cracked.
For additional safety tips, resources, and data related to child safety, visit the FLHSMV Child Safety webpage.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education, and enforcement. Florida 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 FLHSMV and the services offered, visit https://www.flhsmv.gov, follow us on Twitter @FLHSMV, find us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram.
Dave Kerner, Executive Director