JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Students in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia have been returning to classrooms over the past two weeks, but now it's Duval and Columbia Counties' turn.
One of the biggest adjustments both students and drivers have to account for when the new year starts is the presence of school buses on roads across the city.
News4Jax Crime and Safety Analyst Gil Smith was a School Resource Officer in Duval County schools when he was a Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer. He's seen first-hand the importance of knowing what to do when buses are getting children to and from class.
"It take a group effort to keep everyone on the road safe. That includes both the students, drivers in cars and school bus drivers," Smith said.
Smith said knowing the laws for when school buses are stopping is key.
Drivers should always stop for a school bus with its lights flashing and the stop arm extended.
The only exception is if you are driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway where there is at least five feet of unpaved space, a raised median or a physical barrier separating the roadway.
Drivers should maintain the legal speed but have a heightened awareness for students crossing the road.
According to the traffic school website idrivesafely.com, not stopping for a stopped school bus on the right-hand side will carry of a fine of $265 for your first offense. If you don't stop on the left-hand side of the bus, the fine is $165.
Smith also warns drivers about knowing where the school zones in their neighborhoods are and to pay attention to the school crossing guards.