Photo/Story Gallery 2006

Florida Kids Go Back to School Safety is Top Concern

Troopers watching school zonesAn end to the summer heat may not be in sight for at least another month, but summer vacation is quickly coming to an end for millions of Florida’s kids. Ready or not, over the next couple of weeks, children and teens will be headed back to school. That means a significant increase in kids on our state’s roadways. Whether they are beginning drivers headed to the nearest high school; or child passengers in cars or school buses; or walkers and bike riders on sidewalks, roadways, or streets — kids are on the roads in the mornings and afternoons Monday through Friday. Whether they are riding in cars with their parents to suburban neighborhood schools; or standing at intersections and crossing streets in downtown urban areas, or standing on the sides of rural roadways waiting to catch the school bus — kids will be out there and on the move. Safety is often the last thing on their minds. They are kids, after all.

The act of getting to and from school has the greatest potential for danger than any other single act performed during the school day. To help ensure kids have the safest transportation experience possible, it is important that parents learn transportation safety tips and relay this information to their children and teenagers, as well as teach the importance of personal responsibility.

Younger children are at a disadvantage because they are less visible to motorists. Also, children are less capable than adults of judging where and when it’s safe to cross the street and less likely to fully understand the consequences of their potential misjudgments. National statistics show that one-fifth of all children age 14 and under who die in motor vehicle related crashes are pedestrians. Many of these fatalities are children who run across the street, not paying attention to oncoming vehicles.

Motorists need to be on full alert for children waiting at bus stops and walking or riding bikes to and from schools. The best protection is for drivers to slow down when approaching children on roadways. Every mile per hour a driver reduces vehicle speed allows for greater reaction time. This could be the difference between life and death for a child who unexpectedly darts across the street. Motorists need to pay extra attention in school zones or areas where children are present, not only in these first few critical weeks, but throughout the entire school year.

Troopers on motorcycles watching school zones.To better prepare for a safe back to school experience, parents can take the lead and try to make sure their children and teens have all the information they need to help them arrive at school and return home again safe and sound everyday. To assist in this effort, FHP has compiled a list of website links that provide valuable safety information.

Teach your children to be alert and stay aware of their surroundings, whether getting on or off the bus, riding a bike, walking down the street, or driving to school.

The Florida Highway Patrol is watching!

More information and tips below:

Seat belt poster

In the car…

You might have heard it before…most traffic crashes occur close to home. This is true! Statistically, most crashes occur within 5 miles of your home. Seat belts are the best form of protection drivers and passengers have in the event of a crash. They can lower your risk of injury by 45%. You are 4 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed if ejected from the vehicle in a crash. Seat belts prevent ejection, increasing your chance of surviving a crash by nearly 50%. Everyone needs to be buckled up properly. That means older kids in seat belts, younger kids in booster seats and little kids in child safety seats.

 photo of Trooper Hall going after a traffic violatorOn the School Bus…

The Florida statute regarding traffic stops for school buses is fairly clear as far as statute-speak goes. Here is what statute 316.172 says about stopping for a school bus: “Any person using, operating, or driving a vehicle on or over the roads or highways of this state shall, upon approaching any school bus which displays a stop signal, bring such vehicle to a full stop while the bus is stopped, and the vehicle shall not pass the school bus until the signal has been withdrawn.”

The statute goes on to say that drivers on a divided highway with an unpaved space of at least five feet, a raised median, or a physical barrier are not required to stop when traveling in the opposite direction of a stopped school bus.

But again, alertness is important. More roads now have signs posted that stipulate that all traffic must stop in both directions for school bus loading and unloading, regardless of the presence of a median, so watch for those signs.

 On a Bike…

Many children ride bikes to school. To reduce the risk of serious head injury or death, children should wear a helmet.

 photo of a pedestrian crossing at a crosswalk under the watchful eyes of a trooperWalking…

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that pedestrian fatalities while loading and unloading school buses account for approximately three times as many school bus-related fatalities when compared to school bus occupant fatalities. Young children are most likely to be struck because they are in a hurry to get on or off the bus and have little experience with traffic.

  Troopers gathering information about the accident.
Teen Drivers…

Distracted Driving Causes Three Car Crash: Nobody really died. It’s only a video, after all. But the filming looked real and the message is a serious one–distracted driving kills!

Distracted Driving Video
(.avi file size 12M – Windows media,
Must use Internet Explorer)