The new school year is in full swing for Pinellas County students and now that kids are back in class, it's a good time for a review of Florida law regarding stopping for school buses. Here's a quick rundown of answers to the most common questions the Doc receives from readers:
Sometimes I'm not sure if a bus is done loading or unloading students or even "officially" stopped. How do I know for sure?
Florida law requires that motorists stop upon approaching any school bus that displays flashing lights and has its stop signs extended. This means you will see the red paddle that swings off the side of the bus that reads "STOP" and red flashing signals on the bus. You must bring your vehicle to a full stop while the bus is stopped. Motorists cannot legally pass the bus until the signal has been completely withdrawn. It doesn't matter if it appears that all the kids have gotten on or off the bus; motorists must wait.
Do I need to stop for a school bus that is headed in the opposite direction on a divided road?
Florida law defines a divided road as an unpaved space of at least 5 feet, a raised median, or some sort of other physical barrier. If these conditions are present, motorists aren't required to stop when traveling in the opposite direction of a stopped school bus.
Sometimes it seems like school buses stop in the middle of the road to load and unload kids. Are there requirements about where school buses are supposed to stop?
School bus drivers are trained to stop as far to the right of the street as possible and to display warning lights and stop signals. When possible, bus drivers are not to stop where visibility is obscured for a distance of 200 feet either way from the bus. If visibility is an issue, this may be why some buses are not stopped to the extreme right side of the road.
What are the fines for violating Florida law regarding school bus safety?
Drivers who pass a school bus illegally on the left side are subject to a $165 fine for the first offense. For a second offense within five years, drivers are subject to a $165 fine plus license suspension for 90 days to six months.
Drivers who pass a school bus illegally on the right side (where students enter or exit the bus) are subject to a $265 fine for the first offense. A subsequent offense within five years means a $265 fine, license suspension for 180 days to one year, and a mandatory court hearing.
For more information, visit the state's official website at leg.state.fl.us and follow the links to the Florida Statutes 316.172; 318.18; 318.19 and 322.0261.
• The on-ramp for southbound U.S. 19 traffic at Drew Street in Clearwater has been closed to accommodate construction of a flyover. Officials at the state Department of Transportation say this will be in effect for about one year. Access to southbound U.S. 19 is now via the frontage road, with traffic crossing over State Road 60 and getting onto southbound U.S. 19 at that point. Traffic engineers will keep a close eye on the traffic flow and make adjustments to the traffic signal timing and message boards on the detour route.
• The Republican National Convention will affect many roads and parking lots in and around St. Petersburg. Interstate 175, including all entrance and exit ramps and pedestrian overpasses will be closed from 2 p.m. to midnight today. This includes Exit 22 off of north and southbound I-275. Motorists can use exit 23 from I-375.
Bayshore Drive/Dalí Boulevard between First Avenue SE and First Street S will be closed from 1 p.m. today until 6 a.m. Monday.
For more details sorted by date, check out the city's interactive map of road closures and parking restrictions at mapguide.stpete.org/stpetegoogle/rnc.
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