First day of school has arrived, so don't forget the school bus traffic rules

The first day of school is right around the corner, meaning school buses will be back on the road.

Officer Roy Paz with the Tampa Police Department joined Good Day Tampa Bay to stress the importance of following the law when it comes to passing, or not passing, a stopped school bus.

He said the state of Florida recently held a one-day survey to see how many drivers illegally passed a school bus that completely stopped to drop off children. What they discovered was a total of 10,947 drivers passed a stopped school bus when they were not supposed to, Paz said.

“It is an issue,” he explained, “where people are passing school buses when they’ve stopped and are picking up the kids.”

According to the state law, if you’re traveling in the same direction of a school bus and it stops, you must also stop if you’re behind it or on the side of it. The same rule applies if you are traveling in the opposite direction in a two-lane or multi-lane road.

The only time you don’t have to stop for a school bus is if you’re heading in the opposite direction and there is an “unpaved surface,” such as a grassy median, a raised median or a physical barrier, separating the roads. 

LINK: Read the Florida statute on school bus traffic 

“It has to be at least five feet,” Paz said, and added if drivers break the law, it will cost them.

If you pass a school bus, it’s an automatic $258 fine. If you pass on the right of the school bus, it’s also a mandatory court appearance and four points to your license.

“We want to let parents to know, please talk to your kids,” Paz advised. “If they got to catch a bus, go over the safest route with them. Let them know…just because a school bus stops, doesn’t mean other cars are going to stop. They have to be careful.”

He also wants parents to make sure their kids don’t walk while on their cell phones. 

“Tell them kids to stay off their phones. We have seen them get hit by bicyclists on the sidewalk and then walk right out onto the street,” he recalled. “They got to be aware of their surroundings.”
When school starts, traffic noticeably picks up, and there will be more delays on the road. Patience is key, Paz said. 

“One of the big tips,” he said, “is give yourself enough time to get to work because there will be a lot more traffic on the streets.”