MIAMI — Now that schools are back in session, everyone should take a minute to review and think about some basic safety tips that could save you the cost of a hefty fine and, more importantly, the life of a child.
Over 55 million children go back to school in August around the U.S. every fall, and 13 percent of them walk or bike there.
“Just make sure that you are observant when you drive and that your children are observant (if they are walking or biking),” said Miami Police Chief Thomas Anderson. “One of the biggest problems we have right now is that people are so focused on their cell phones that they don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them. Even just walking down the road they are on their phones. Be observant and pay attention. “And of course no texting while driving, especially in school zones, because there are going to be a lot of kids out and about.”
And in case you are wondering just how big a financial setback getting a ticket for a violation in a school zone would be, according to Anderson the smallest fine you could get for speeding in a school zone for going 1 to 25 mph over the posted speed limit is $460 (and it goes higher with every mile over the speed limit you go).
For overtaking a school bus (driving around a school bus with lights and signs displayed) is $360.
Drivers are warned to be observant and aware of pedestrians, especially before and after school.
In particular, the afternoon hours, which have proven to be the most dangerous, with nearly one in four child pedestrian deaths occurring between 3 and 7 p.m. over the last decade, according to www.AAA.com
Of course the No. 1 and No. 2 tips to safe driving with kids back in school is to obey school zone speed limits and the “no passing” law when a school bus is stopped with its signs and lights visible.
Most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7-years-old and are walking when they are hit by a bus or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus, according to research by the National Safety Council.
A few precautions can go a long way:
When stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, don't block the crosswalk, which forces pedestrians to go around you and possibly into the path of moving traffic.
When flashers are blinking in a school zone, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the street. And, even if you have the right of way, don’t honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian.
Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians and always use extreme caution around pedestrians wherever they may be.
You should always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign and take extra care to watch for children near playgrounds and parks and in all residential areas and school zones.
Other tips that should be considered include:
If driving behind a bus, allow a greater following distance than if driving behind a car.
The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children. Be alert; children often are unpredictable, and tend to ignore hazards.
When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave three feet between your car and the cyclist.
When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass.
If turning right and a bicyclist is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first, and always use turn signals.
Watch for bike riders ahead turning in front without looking or signaling, and watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars.
And always check side mirrors before opening doors.