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Alert to Drivers: Watch for Students Returning to Schools

On Friday, August 21, more than one-in-three students enrolled in the Orange County Public School system returned to the traditional classroom. That’s more than 75,000 students either biking, walking, or riding in a car or bus. Thousands more returned to school in other Central Florida counties in August as well.

Whose responsibility is it to make sure these young people get to school and back home safely? It’s everyone’s responsibility, but primarily it’s drivers who need to pay the most attention. 


Danger Zones Include School Bus Stops and School Zones

Drivers must look out for children and drive with caution around school buses and where children may be present.

Parents and guardians also play a vital role and must stress the importance of safety. This is paramount if their children ride the bus, walk or bike to school and back home. Children need to know that some drivers don’t follow the rules. Sometimes drivers speed through school zones, zip past stopped school buses and ignore school crossings.

Bike/Walk Central Florida’s web site Resource Page offers tools and resources for parents and teachers to help children walk and bike safely to school.

Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV) also offers tips for drivers and parents.


Laws are on the Books

A few Florida laws for drivers to keep in mind as school resumes:

  • Drivers must yield – slow down or stop – for a pedestrian crossing the street in a crosswalk, even when traffic control signals are not present. Click here for more information on Florida’s Driver Yield Laws.
  • As of last year, Florida law prohibits the use of a wireless communications device in a handheld manner while driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone area. 
  • As of January 1, 2021, the penalties for failure to stop for a school bus double. The penalty for failure to stop for a school bus goes from a minimum $100 to $200. 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, goes from a minimum of $200 to $400. If a second offense is committed in five years, the person’s license can be suspended up to two years.

School Safety Tips for Drivers

A lot can happen around you when children are present.

  • 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.

School Bus Stop Rules for Drivers

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 that’s at least five 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 Students

Planning ahead and practicing basic safety are key. Here are some tips from FHSMV:

  • Arrive at the bus stop with about five minutes to spare 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.

Learn More

For more information about student pedestrian safety or to schedule a virtual or live presentation for your group, please contact Best Foot Forward at [email protected]