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National Bike & Roll to School Day is May 3, and with more kids expected to be on the loose that morning, it has our team thinking a lot about the rules that are in place to protect our children on their commutes to and from school.

Florida has strict rules that govern school zones and bus stops in order to ensure the safety of children. These rules apply to every driver, whether you are a resident or just visiting the state.

School Zones

School zones are designated areas near schools where drivers must slow down and be extra cautious for the safety of children. Florida law mandates that the speed limit in a school zone be 20 miles per hour, but this can vary depending on the location, so it is important to look out for signs that indicate the applicable speed limit.

In addition to obeying the speed limit, drivers must also comply with other rules when entering and exiting a school zone. Passing is strictly prohibited, and U-turns are also not allowed in school zones, even if there is no signage prohibiting them.

It’s also important to watch out for pedestrians, especially near schools. Children are often not aware of the dangers of the road and can be easily distracted, so it is crucial to be alert and vigilant when driving through a school zone. Drivers should also always use their turn signals when entering and exiting a school zone, particularly when turning into a parking lot.

Additionally, Florida Statute 316.306 states that it is a noncriminal traffic infraction to use a wireless communication device while driving through a school zone or school crossing unless the device is used in a hands-free manner. 

Bus Stops

Bus stops are another critical area where drivers must exercise caution. Florida law requires drivers to stop when a school bus is picking up or dropping off children, regardless of which direction they are traveling in. The only exception to this rule is when drivers are on a divided highway with a physical barrier that separates the road.

When a school bus activates its flashing red lights and extends its stop sign, all traffic must come to a complete stop until the lights stop flashing and the sign is retracted. Even if the school bus is in the opposite lane, drivers must stop.

Finally, do not attempt to maneuver around a school bus that is stopped if you’re too close to it on a two-lane road. Children can often be unpredictable and may run into the street when exiting the bus, so it is essential to exercise caution and wait patiently.

In Florida, penalties for passing a stopped school bus include:

  • Moving violation subject to citation;
  • Requirement to complete a basic Driver Improvement Course upon conviction;
  • Four points on your driver’s license; and
  • Minimum fine of $165, if you pass on the side where children enter and exit, you will receive a minimum fine of $265.

On July 1, 2017, the Cameron Mayhew Act took effect in Florida, which increases the minimum penalty for drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus, resulting in the injury or death of another person. Cameron Mayhew was killed by a motorist that failed to stop as he was walking to his stopped school bus in 2016.

Penalties for passing a stopped school bus that causes or results in serious bodily injury or the death of another person include:

  • Serving 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital;
  • Participating in a victim’s impact panel session, or if such a panel does not exist, attending an FLHSMV-approved driver improvement course;
  • Six points on your driver’s license;
  • Suspension of license for a minimum of one year; and
  • $1,500 fine.

It’s Up to Us to Keep Our Children Safe

Drivers must follow specific rules around school zones and bus stops in Florida. Failing to adhere to these rules puts children and other drivers at risk of harm through speeding, passing a stopped school bus, or not stopping at all. Drivers need to be attentive, slow down, and watch carefully for children whenever they are driving through a school zone or approaching a bus stop. It is up to all of us to make sure our roads are safe for our children while they are commuting to school.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by the failure of a driver in a school zone or at a bus stop, contact us today for a consultation.