For the citizens of Florida, school is back in session. This means buses are back on the roads and students will be meeting and making new friends. The start of a new school year is an exciting time, but with it comes an increased exposure to risks that are easily avoidable if approached properly. To put the best foot forward for the start of this school year, it’s best to dust off the books for a refresher on back to school safety.
Speeding in a School Zone
If you think speeding tickets are expensive, try speeding in a school zone. In Florida, speeding fines vary by county, but a typical fine for 10 MPH over the post-speed limit is $204.00 or $254.00 for 15 MPH over. If you are caught speeding in a school zone, your fine will be doubled. I won’t do the math for you, but a heavy foot could result in a heavy fine.
Not only are the fines higher for speeding in a school zone, but odds are, law enforcement will be less lenient if you are caught. In 2015, a Boynton Beach woman was caught driving 51 MPH in a 20 MPH school zone and received a $606 ticket.
Under Florida law, no school zone speed limit will exceed 20 MPH in an urbanized area and is typically not less than 15 MPH, but this may vary by your region. School zone speed limits are often in force during the 30 minutes before, during, and after the periods of time when students are arriving at school and leaving school. School zones must be designated by signs, and those signs must have the times during which the restrictive speed limits are enforced. Florida law does not require a school zone to have flashing beacons or signs of any type, so it is important you are aware of your surroundings and obey all posted signs. This goes without saying, but stay off of your cell phone in a school zone!
It may also be worth noting that in Florida, some schools let out early on certain days (called “early-release days”). This could mean a change in when you need to slow down, depending on the day of the week. Churches which also double as private schools, special school events like ‘meet the teacher’, and other non-regulation events or locations may also institute a school zone speed limit. So keep an eye out and drive safely, no matter where you are!
Passing a School Bus
Stopping for a school bus may seem like common sense, but common sense is not necessarily a common virtue. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, over 2,400 people were ticketed in 2016 for ignoring school bus stop signals. Under Florida law, all drivers are required to come to a complete stop upon approaching any school bus which displays a stop signal. The driver is required to remain stopped while the bus is stopped and may not begin moving until the stop signal has been completely withdrawn. A driver who violates this law and passes the bus on the left side could receive a minimum fine of $165. If the driver is ticketed for the same violation within five years, their license could be suspended for a minimum of 90 days or a maximum of six months. A driver who passes a stopped school bus on the right side—where passengers exit—could receive a minimum fine of $265, and a repeat offender could have their license suspended for six months to a year.
School bus safety continues to be a hotly debated topic. Earlier this year, HB 1239, Florida’s School Bus Safety bill, was signed by Governor Rick Scott and went into effect on July 01, 2017. The law imposes enhanced penalties on drivers who do not stop for a school bus and cause serious bodily harm or death to a person. Drivers who pass a stopped school bus with its warning signals on and cause “serious bodily harm or death” to another person will be fined $1,500 and have their license suspended for one year. If a driver passes a stopped school bus but does not harm or kill someone, they will have four points added to their license; if they severely injure or kill someone, that will be raise to six points. Convicted motorists will also have to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma care center or hospital that routinely receives victims of automobile accidents, and they must attend a victim impact panel or a driver safety course. The penalties introduced in this bill are in addition to any civil or criminal penalties that result from illegally passing a school bus.
When do I have to stop for a school bus?
If you are behind or beside a school bus traveling in the same direction, it goes without saying that you must stop and follow the rules we’ve gone over above. But what about when you’re heading the opposite direction? On a two way street or highway, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a stopped school bus. However, if you are traveling in the opposite direction on a road or highway that is divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide, you do not have to stop for the bus. Keep in mind, painted lines are not considered barriers, and lots of medians are not five feet wide. Be cautious trying to get away with these little loopholes, since kids will be kids and their movements—especially when excited to be heading to school or arriving home from school—can’t always be predicted.
[Been a while since you’ve read the Florida Driver’s Handbook? Check it out here.]
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Bullying in Florida
Bullying, no matter what the form, is destructive and harmful—it is also against Florida law. Florida recently passed the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, which prohibits bullying, harassment, and cyberbullying of any student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution during school related activities. The Act defines “bullying” as systematic and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve:
- Social exclusion;
- Physical violence;
- Sexual, religious, or racial harassment;
- Public or private humiliation; or
- Destruction of property.
The Act requires public schools to maintain policies to deter bullying. But this may not be enough. If your child is being bullied or harassed, you must do something. Start by alerting the school to the activity. Then, work your way up the chain of command and be sure to document this process along the way. If the situation is serious, consider contacting a personal injury law firm to find out what you can do to seek civil damages against the inflicting party.
[For a more comprehensive look at bullying in schools and a parent or guardians legal recourse, click on this link.]
If your child has been injured while at school, traveling to school, or during a school related event and you believe someone was negligent, consider contacting a personal injury attorney. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we protect the citizens of Florida, even the little ones. Contact us in one of the four ways below.
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