Monday, August 24, 2009

It's Back to School Time!

Starting Tuesday, 25 August 2009, children will be heading back to school in both Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. What is this going to mean for you? School zones and 15 mph speed limits as well as the many school buses on the roads as you make your way to work or wherever you need to be.

Please, when you approach any of these school zones – especially the one on 54 Av N east of Interstate 275 (Exit 26) next to Sexton Elementary School, Northeast High School or Meadowlawn Middle School (Meadowlawn is on 16 St N north of Northeast High) here in St. Petersburg – slow down and reduce your speed to the posted speed limit for the school zone. That cell phone conversation can wait until you arrive at your destination; your primary concern is the safety of our children on their way to learn.

Being in a hurry to be somewhere is no excuse for speeding in a school zone. In Florida, the fines are pretty steep – speeding fines are doubled for speeding in school zones, as well as construction zones and toll plazas. If you are caught doing 30 mph or over in a posted school zone you are looking at a fine of at least $555.50. Talk about a car loan payment!

While we’re on the subject of back to school, here’s another area we need to address while you make your way to work: School buses.

When you transition off of Interstate 275 and onto the local streets, you will more than likely encounter a few school buses on your way to your destination. But what if that school bus has to stop to pick up children on their way to school and the school bus driver turns on the flashing red lights and extends the stop sign from the bus? Well, here’s the lowdown on what to do if you encounter a stopped school bus with its flashers on and stop sign extended.

According to Section 316.172 of the Florida Statutes, traffic in either direction must stop when a school bus is stopped. The only exceptions are if you are traveling in the opposite direction of the school bus and the roadway is separated by a unpaved median of at least 5 feet or a physical barrier between the roadways.

As I mentioned earlier regarding school zones, being in a hurry is no excuse for not stopping for a school bus. In Florida, the fines are steep for not stopping for a school bus, and if you are caught passing a stopped school bus on the side where children are entering or exiting the bus, you will be subjected to a mandatory court hearing which can result in steep fines being imposed among other things. Again, that cell phone conversation can wait until you have arrived at your destination; safety comes first before anything else.

Now that our children are returning to school, please be careful out there!

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