School Bus Safety

Mandatory Florida Traffic School for Passing a School Bus

Effective October 2009, the State of Florida has taken steps to improve the safety of children riding on school buses. A new law has gone into effect which will require motorists to attend a basic driver improvement course or a Florida Traffic School course should they fail to stop for a school bus loading or unloading children. This action comes in conjunction with the observance of National School Bus Safety Week which is designed to raise awareness of the dangers children face from other motorists on the road. This year’s theme is “Avoid Harm, Obey the Stop Arm”. It reminds drivers to stop when the school bus deploys the red flashing lights and stop arm.

Florida’s public schools transport over one million students a day on school buses. School buses are recognized as one of the safest ways to travel to and from school. Even so, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports an average of 20 school age children are killed in transportation related accidents each year, with the majority of deaths occurring during loading and unloading. The afternoon hours between 3 and 4 p.m. accounted for 32 percent of the fatalities.

The results of a study conducted by the Center for Urban Transportation Research identified the need for increased driver education and tougher enforcement in Florida. With this new law, the penalties of passing a stopped school bus loading and unloading children will increase. The cost of the fine has gone up by $65 and motorists are now required to attend a four hour Basic Driver Improvement Course. The course serves as a refresher on defensive driving techniques and an explanation of new laws. It must be completed within 90 days of receipt of the notice from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Failure to complete the driver improvement course within the time limit will result in the suspension of the driver’s license.

From the 2009 Florida Driver Handbook:

School Buses

On a two way street or highway, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a stopped school bus which is picking up or dropping off children. You must always stop if you are moving in the same direction as the bus and you must remain stopped until the bus stop arm is withdrawn.

If the highway is divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide, you do not have to stop if you are moving in the opposite direction of the bus. Painted lines or pavement markings are not considered barriers.

You must always stop if you are moving in the same direction as the bus and you must continue until the bus stop arm is withdrawn.

When school is in session, drivers need to be extra alert. Children are always unpredictable and you can not take anything for granted. Slow down, look left, look right and left again. Then proceed slowly with caution.

Be on the lookout for children as you travel and expect the unexpected. Remember to “Avoid Harm, Obey the Arm”.