As we approach the end of summer I would like to remind you that a new school year is about to begin. Later this month more than 150,000 Pinellas County students will once again begin making their daily trip to and from school in one of the largest school districts in our state. Whether traveling by car, bus, bicycle, or on foot, students may face some challenges as they make their way to and from school in the coming months.
I encourage parents to talk to their children about safety before the new school year begins. Children should be taught about bicycle and pedestrian laws and parents should encourage their children to adhere to them all. In addition children should be taught to cross streets in marked crosswalks or at intersections, and to make eye contact with drivers of vehicles that are stopped to ensure that they are seen before crossing. If no sidewalk is available, pedestrians should walk facing traffic and bicyclists should ride with the flow of traffic.
Drivers can also expect some changes in their daily commutes associated with the start of another school year. The addition of more cars and buses on our roadways each morning and afternoon will certainly result in increased traffic congestion, particularly near schools and bus stops that have been idle for the past couple of months. School zones will require reduced speeds and brief stops as crossing guards assist younger students who negotiate busy streets while walking to school.
As motorists, we must also be aware that the location of school crossing zones may change from year to year. Just be aware that there may be a school crossing on your way to work this year where there wasn’t one last year.
Motorists should plan to add a few extra minutes to morning and afternoon trips, and extra care should be taken when driving near schools, crosswalks, and bus stops. Drivers should also be prepared to stop for school buses when picking up or dropping off students. Florida law requires that drivers bring their vehicle to a full stop when approaching any school bus displaying a stop signal. Motorists must then remain stopped and are prohibited from passing the bus until the signal has been withdrawn. This law also applies to motorists driving in the opposite direction of a stopped school bus unless there is an unpaved space of at least 5 feet, a raised median, or some other type of physical barrier.
By obeying traffic laws and remaining alert for children near our roadways, we can prevent serious injuries or deaths related to traffic crashes during the upcoming school year. By following the law and these simple suggestions you can help us to achieve our goal of “Leading The Way For A Safer Pinellas.”