ORLANDO, Fla. — Law enforcement officers will be out in force in school zones as classes begin, to make sure drivers are obeying the rules of the road.
- School starts today across Central Florida
- School zones will be active during posted hours
- Drivers must stop when a bus has stop signs out
- Kids biking to school must wear helmets
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One thing they’ll be keeping an extra eye on: making sure drivers stop when school buses pick up and drop off kids.
Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Kim Montes says a common issue is drivers refusing to stop when buses’ flashing lights are on and stop signs are out. It is state law for drivers to stop at that point, unless they are on the other side of the road from the bus and separated by a median.
Johnny Rodrigues, who has been a bus driver for Orange County Public Schools for about 10 years, says he has encountered drivers refusing to stop during his route at least several times a week.
“A lot of them treat the school bus much like they do the traffic light,” Rodrigues said. “When they see the yellows coming on and they see you’re about to stop, they’re gonna try to beat those reds.”
Montes also has a message for parents whose kids ride a bike to school. State law requires children under the age of 16 to wear a helmet while riding a bike.
Last year, a young man who wasn’t wearing a helmet died after a semi-truck hit him. Montes said the boy was in the crosswalk and was following the rules of the road.
“If a child breaks an arm or a leg, that’s fixable,” Montes said. If they damage their head, it can be permanent injury. So we want the parents - when they buy the backpacks, when they buy the pencils - pick up an approved helmet for your child that’s going to be riding a bike.
If police find a child who is not wearing a helmet, they or their parent can be cited and receive a $62.50 fine. The ticket can be dismissed with proof of purchase of an approved helmet.
Texting While Driving Law Will Change in School Zones
Another thing that will be back starting Monday is school zones — slow speed zones near schools at certain times of the day.
Starting in October, school zones will get another rule — no touching mobile devices in school zones, period.
The rule is part of the new texting while driving law that the Florida Legislature passed this year.
Starting in October, drivers have to put down the phone in school zones, areas where students are crossing, and active construction zones.
In October, you could get pulled over and get a warning for doing so.
But starting in January — those warnings become citations with fines.
"Get in that habit now," Montes said. "Put that phone down when you’re taking your kids to and from school, when you’re in and around a school area. That way when it comes October 1, you’re not pulled over and addressing an officer for breaking the law."