By David Wolf, Attorney and Kurt Sigmund, Legal Assistant
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network
In Florida and other States, iconic yellow school buses can be seen virtually year round on Florida streets, highways, and neighborhoods. At times, the presence and operation of a school bus can slow down traffic and possibly even make you late for work. When you see a yellow school bus on the roadway, keep in mind that the buses transport our community's most important resource - our children. As such, slow down and drive cautious when you see a yellow school bus.
Federal and State laws form the foundation for the school transportation system. A school bus drivers should be trained to safely perform the job. The law requires that buses be physically inspected every 30 days. All school bus drivers are required to attend yearly training and screening for their ability to safely drive the bus. In contrast, drivers in the general public are not required to meet such standards. In fact, many drivers go years without taking a driving test. At many driver's license renewal appointments for standard drivers, the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles merely checks your vision and then re-issues the Florida Driver's License. See Florida School Bus Regulations and Training Requirements.
It is important to take a moment from time to time to review how you, as a driver, interact with school buses on the road. First and foremost, all drivers must come to a complete stop when a school bus displays the stop signal while driving in the same direction as the bus and the opposite direction on two lane roads. On multi-lane roadways, drivers must stop unless there is an unpaved space greater than 5 feet between opposite lanes such as a median or a barrier between the lanes of traffic. To be clear, the traffic must stop on roadways where there is a turn lane in between opposite lanes of traffic.
Even with these Florida laws and regulations in place, distracted drivers carelessly drive right by a stopped school bus with all of its flashing lights and "stop signs". The potential for injury is increased dramatically when drivers do not follow the applicable Florida traffic laws and it happens all too frequently in Florida.
A bus driver in St. Johns County, Florida recently reported that at least one car passes his stopped yellow school bus every other day. In a one day survey performed last year by the Florida Department of Education, the Department found that 21,000 vehicles passed stopped school busses throughout the State of Florida. From the survey, the total number of potential violations for a school year would be 3.7 million violations in a 6 month time period.
Remember that children can be unpredictable and dart out into the roadway after getting off of the school bus. Therefore, all drivers must be alert and follow the applicable Florida laws. It is helpful to put down the mobile phone and focus on the traffic conditions and, yes, the child pedestrians. When a driver passes a school bus when stopped, the driver has committed a moving violation and is subject to citation. Upon conviction, the driver is required to pay a fine, attend a Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicle (DHSMV) approved driver’s school within 90 days and receive four points on his or her license.
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Here is the Florida Statute on point that requires drivers to stop when a school bus is stopped with flashing lights on a Florida road.
MOTOR VEHICLES Chapter 316
STATE UNIFORM TRAFFIC CONTROL
316.172 Traffic to stop for school bus.—
(1)(a) 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. A person who violates this section commits a moving violation, punishable as provided in chapter 318.
(b) Any person using, operating, or driving a vehicle that passes a school bus on the side that children enter and exit when the school bus displays a stop signal commits a moving violation, punishable as provided in chapter 318, and is subject to a mandatory hearing under the provisions of s. 318.19.
(2) The driver of a vehicle upon a divided highway with an unpaved space of at least 5 feet, a raised median, or a physical barrier is not required to stop when traveling in the opposite direction of a school bus which is stopped in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(3) Every school bus shall stop as far to the right of the street as possible and shall display warning lights and stop signals as required by rules of the State Board of Education before discharging or loading passengers. When possible, a school bus shall not stop where the visibility is obscured for a distance of 200 feet either way from the bus.