Back to school has just arrived! Just around the corner, you will be seeing those familiar yellow school buses and those school zones that will be a part of the Tampa Bay region commute.
For the majority of the Tampa Bay region, the 2016-2017 school year began on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 for Citrus, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando and Manatee Counties. The only exceptions are Pasco and Polk Counties which starts school on Monday, 15 August 2016.
Like I mentioned in a similar blog entry last year, do you know what you need to do as a driver when you see a school bus? You're on your way to work, and the school bus ahead of you slows down and then the yellow flashers come on first and then the red flashers along with the stop signs that extend from the school bus. What do you do when you are faced with a stopped school bus?
If you are on a two lane road, traffic in both directions must come to a complete stop. Remain in place until the school bus driver has turned off the red signals and retracted the stop signs.
If you are on a four or more lane road and the center is paved, such as a continuous left turn lane, traffic in both directions must come to a complete stop. Remain in place until the school bus driver has turned off the red signals and retracted the stop signs.
However, if you are on a four or more lane road and the center is unpaved for at least five feet or if there is a physical barrier such as a Jersey barrier wall between the opposing roadways, only traffic traveling in the same direction as the school bus must come to a complete stop. Remain in place until the school bus driver has turned off the red signals and retracted the stop signs. Traffic going the opposite direction of the school bus need not stop, but reduced speed is called for as children may be around in the area where the school bus stops.
As our children make their way back to school for the new school year, please resist the urge to pass a stopped school bus especially if you are in a hurry to be somewhere such as work. Passing a stopped school bus can cost you a $271.00 ticket and if you pass a stopped school bus on the side where children get on or off, it becomes a mandatory court appearance which can result in a much larger fine.
Now for a word on school zones. You won't see them on Interstate 275, but chances are you will encounter them on the side streets as you make your way.
When you are driving near a school, more than likely the 15 mph school zone will be in effect with the yellow blinkers flashing. If you encounter an active school zone, reduce your speed to 15 mph and do not go any faster until you reach the end school zone sign. In addition, be sure to obey any signals from the on duty school crossing guard. Remember, speeding fines are doubled for school zones starting at 1 mph over the school zone speed limit (starting at $156.00 in Pinellas County), so don't think about trying to be in a hurry to be somewhere.
Besides, the school bus and school zone fines are a lot more than your car loan payment. Try to explain that to your auto lender if for some reason you cannot make your auto loan payment this month, the monies instead going to pay a school zone or school bus related traffic ticket!
So, if we know the basics of what you need to do when you see a school bus or if you drive near a school zone and see the school zone activated, we can get the 2016-2017 school year off to a great start for our children!