LEE COUNTY, Fla. - On Monday, August 23rd, an estimated 80,000 students and 5,000 teachers with the Lee County School District will begin the 2010/11 school year. As a result, our roads get busy with more than 700 school buses rolling out, parents opting to drive their children to and from school and students walking or biking to school. The Traffic Units of the Lee County Sheriff's Office, Cape Coral Police Department and Fort Myers Police Department are unified in efforts to alert citizens to be prepared as the schools get back in session.
Deputies and officers will be watching for the most common driving violations such as speeding in school zones, passing stopped school busses and failing to yield to students in crosswalks. Motorists should plan on allowing extra time to travel to and from destinations and keep their attention on the road. Your area law enforcement is committed to the safety of everyone with the start of the school year and offer the following tips as a reminder to students, parents and drivers.
- Have a safe place to wait for your bus, away from traffic and off the street.
- Never sit on the roadway while waiting for your bus.
- Stay away from the bus until the driver gives his/her signal that it's okay to approach.
- Be aware of the street traffic around you. Protect yourself and watch out!
- While riding the bus, remain seated and conduct yourself in an orderly fashion. Aisles in the bus should remain clear.
- Don’t stick anything out side the bus windows.
- Allow extra time to reach your destination and watch for cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, crossing guards and school buses.
- Both directions of traffic must stop when school bus stop arms and flashing red lights are displayed. The only exception is multi-lane roadways where a raised or grass divider exists. Even in these cases, traffic traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop.
- Be aware of the speed limit and your speed, especially in school zones and around schools. A speeding ticket in a posted school zone will cost double the usual speeding fine.
Walkers and Bike Riders:
- Take the time to carefully review your children's route to school before the first day and stress the importance of not wandering off.
- Be realistic about your child's pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
- If your child is young or is walking to a new school, walk with them the first week to make sure they know the route and can do it safely
Students on bikes:
-Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride. The law requires a helmet be worn by persons under the age of 16.
- Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic (younger children should use sidewalks).
- Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.
- Walk your bike through intersections.
- Mind all traffic signals and/or the crossing guard -- never cross the street against a light, even if you don't see any traffic coming. Learn what traffic signals and signs mean.
- Walk with a buddy.
- Wear reflective material...it makes you more visible to street traffic.
- Stay off the road.
- Never walk between parked cars.
Riding in a car:
- All passengers must wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat. Florida’s safety belt law is now primary -- you can and will be stopped and ticketed for not wearing your safety belt. Adult drivers are responsible for their passengers under 18 years of age when it comes to proper safety belt and car seat use.
- Remember, many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. Parents should require seat belt use by the driver and all passengers, limit the number of teen passengers, do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations or texting to prevent driver distraction; limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather.
Dealing with strangers:
- Always tell your parents where you are going and when you will return.
- Always walk with a friend. Don’t take shortcuts through woods or back streets.
- Never approach strange vehicles or people. Keep your distance and always give yourself room to run from strangers. Remember, strangers should always ask directions from adults not children.
- Never go with a stranger to look for a missing pet or to play a game.
- If a stranger follows or grabs you, yell loud and run away. If you need to, fight back and make as much noise as you can. Run to a safe place and call 9-1-1.