Rules of the Road: Keep students safe as they had back to school

AAA launches ‘School’s Open Drive Carefully’ campaign

New Charter school opens across the street from another school.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With students heading back to class, you can expect to see more traffic on the road during your commute.

AAA is reminding drivers to be extra cautious this fall. AAA launched its “School’s Open Drive Carefully” campaign, urging drivers to slow down, eliminate distractions, watch for pedestrians, and obey traffic laws when passing bus stops and driving through neighborhoods and school zones.

According to a recent AAA survey of Floridians, nearly 56% of people in Florida drive through a school zone on their daily commute.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said parents should talk with their children about safety.

“Parents are walking with their kids, which is the best idea to show them the route and to show them how to be safe, sort of how to cross the street and show them how to obey the crossing guards,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson said the best advice for people as they’re traveling through tight and crowded areas is to be patient.

“Don’t get in a hurry. Your kids are going to be OK. Even if they’re late on the first day, they’re not penalized,” he said.

Traffic stacked up Tuesday on San Pablo Road between Beach and Atlantic boulevards with the opening of the new River City Science Academy across the street from Alimacani Elementary School. Jefferson said he believes things will get a little better when people make the adjustment. But neighbors have expressed concern that the two lanes on San Pablo Road can’t smoothly accommodate the extra students. The new River City Science Academy has about 450 students enrolled right now, but that number could grow close to 900 over the next five years.

River City Science Academy, opening on San Pablo between Beach and Atlantic Boulevards was described as a traffic nightmare after parents wait more than an hour in traffic. With Alimacani Elementary across the street, the problem only got worse.

Here are some steps that AAA says drivers can take to keep students traveling to and from school safe:

  • Remember to slow down to the posted speed limit when driving through a school zone.
  • If there are any stop signs, always come to a complete stop. If a child tries to cross the street, stop the car and wait until it is safe to continue driving.
  • Remove all distractions while behind the wheel. Keep your phone somewhere where you won’t be tempted to use it. Also, don’t eat while driving.
  • In addition, AAA reminds drivers to watch out for children on bicycles. Children can make unexpected turns, so AAA says drivers should slow down and allow at least 3 feet of passing distance between their vehicle and a bicyclist.

You could get stuck behind school buses on your way to and from work. Here’s when drivers are required to stop for school buses in Florida:

  • If you are on a two-lane street, all drivers are required to stop if the bus sticks out its stop signal. You can start driving again as soon as the bus removes its stop arm.
  • If you are on a multi-lane road with a paved median, the rule stays the same: All drivers must stop no matter which side of the street you are on.
  • Now, if you are driving on a divided highway, only drivers traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop. If you are on the other side of the highway, you can keep driving as long as you slow down and watch out for students.
With students heading back to class, you can expect to see more traffic on the road during your commute.

The fine for passing a school bus illegally can range from $200 to $400. If it happens a second time in five years, your license could be suspended for up to two years.

Be safe, slow down and stop when you’re supposed to.

About the Authors:

Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.