The roads will be a bit busier Monday morning, as 392 Pasco school buses roll out to transport more than 36,000 students back to school.
Plan to give yourself a little extra time.
"Be patient and cautious," urged Gary Sawyer, transportation director of Pasco County schools. "We've got students and parents all looking for the bus stop, and drivers watching to make sure they get all the riders at each stop. It usually takes a week for things to settle down and fall into a routine."
Bus traffic will pick up from 6 to 9:30 a.m., and again from 2 to 5 p.m., Sawyer said. And you're not just sharing the road with buses. Drivers should keep an eye out for children walking or riding their bikes to school, or crossing the street to get to their bus stops.
And there are more than 8,000 school bus stops across the county.
Pasco sheriff's deputies will be out in force this week to make sure drivers are stopping behind school buses and slowing down through school zones. Failing to do so is not only dangerous — it can cost you.
Passing a stopped school bus is a moving violation that carries a $164 fine, if the car passes on the left side of the bus. Passing on the right side of the bus, where students are getting on and off, leads to a citation that requires a mandatory court appearance.
Speeding fines are also higher in school zones. Just 10 mph over the school zone speed limit is a $304 fine, and it goes up from there. Drivers going up to 29 mph above the limit can face a $454 fine; those speeding 30-49 mph above the limit will have a mandatory court appearance.
And a driver who tears through a school zone at 50 mph above the speed limit can face a $1,000 fine.
"We must be extremely mindful of the safety of our children as they begin the school year," Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said. "That is why Pasco deputies will be ticketing violators who disregard these important school zone regulations."
A reminder for drivers: Those flashing yellow lights on the bus mean slow down — not speed up. Flashing red lights and that big red stop sign that opens out on the side of the bus mean stop. Vehicles may not pass until the lights and signals are turned off.
So give yourself a little extra time on the road, and take care to watch for the buses and their students.
"Just everybody working together can keep the kids safe," Sawyer said.
Helpful hints for parents and students:
• Be at the bus stop at least five minutes early, stand a safe distance from the road and avoid rough play. Parents should consider providing an adult presence/supervision at the stop.
• Put a name tag (often provided by the school) on your young child, especially first-time bus riders. List his or her name, teacher's name, bus number and bus stop.
• If children must cross the road before getting on the bus or after getting off, wait until the driver signals that it is okay to cross.
• Parents should review safety rules with their child. Go to www.pasco.k12.fl.us/transportation.
• Make a note of your child's bus number and keep handy the district's transportation numbers: (727) 774-0400 in west Pasco; (352) 524-0400 in east Pasco; and (813) 794-0400 in central Pasco. Better yet, program the number into your cell phone so you can call right away if there's a problem or delay.
• Be aware that buses will probably run late during the first week as school employees try to make sure the right kids get on the right buses.
• If your child is a bus rider, but you are planning on accompanying him or her to school for the first day, put him or her on the bus and meet at school. This helps avoid confusion for your child, who will better understand the typical routine. If you choose to drive your child to school on the first day, even though he or she will typically be a bus rider, plan on picking him or her up that day, too.
• Make sure your child knows NOT to get off the bus if he or she is unsure of the correct stop or if a new friend invites him or her home. Students who are unsure of their stop should alert the bus driver.