What Are The Laws For Driving In A School Zone?

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By Marcus Fernandez

Children are particularly vulnerable to dying in motor vehicle crashes according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The number of Florida children killed in vehicle crashes increased 32% from the previous year.

Designated school zones with reduced speed limits can only work when motorists comply with them. A statewide initiative targeting school-zone violations was undertaken by Florida law enforcement agencies over a five-day period and resulted in 2,819 tickets issued to motorists with 2,493 of them for speeding. Another 4,040 motorists were issued warnings for school zone violations.

The high number of speeding violations is an indication that motorists can do more to keep children safe. As you read through this summary school zone rules, pay attention to the driving tips that will save lives and avoid penalties.

What are school zones?

State law permits the creation of a school zone, which is an area or crosswalk near a school. Signage, which may include flashing lights, alerts motorists to the presence of the school zone. Drivers should take special care to keep watch for children crossing the street or walking along the road.

School zones may have reduced speed limits in effect during the times when children may be most at risk. School speed zones are usually in place 30 minutes before and after the start of school. Speed restrictions may be earlier at schools with breakfast programs that operate before regular school hours.

Speed limit restrictions in school zones

Local counties and municipalities must follow state transportation department guidelines for signage and traffic control devices when creating school zones. The following are some of the signs and devices required by state law:

  • Signs must be posted alerting motorists to the presence of a school zone and reduced speed limits.
  • The hours during which the speed restrictions are in effect must be posted on the school zone signs.
  • As an alternative to signs, electronic devices with flashing lights are used when the speed restrictions are in effect. The signs are activated automatically using timers or they may be manually activated.
  • Portable signs may be used instead of permanently installed signage or devices.

The speed limit in a school zone may not be less than 15 mph. Nor may it be more than 20 mph.

School speed zone infractions are ticketed as moving violations. The fines for a violation start at $50 and progressively increase for speeds in excess of 5 mph over the posted speed limit. Fines for school zone speeding violations are doubled, and subject motorists to points on their driver’s license that could lead to civil penalties or suspension of driving privileges.

Special rules for drivers using cellphones in school zones

Speeding is not the only thing that drivers may subject motorists to tickets in school zones. Using a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving in a school zone is prohibited. In fact, merely having the cellphone in your hand is enough for a police officer to stop a driver and issue a citation. It is a moving violation that subjects a motorist to a fine and three points on their driving record.

Safe driving tips for school zones

According to the National Safety Council, most 4- to 7-year-old children who are killed in incidents related to school buses are not actually on a bus. They are walking when a bus or vehicle passing a bus hits them.

The streets and sidewalks around a school become busy places during arrival and dismissal times. School buses and private vehicles create congestion at entrances to schools that frequently spills out onto the streets where children walking to school only add to the need for motorists to use extra caution.

The following are a few precautions for drivers that may avoid an accident or a traffic citation when driving in a school zone:

  • Do not pass a stopped vehicle as it may be about to discharge children.
  • Obey commands from a crossing guard or police officer supervising children crossing the street.
  • Children can be unpredictable and walk into the path of your vehicle when crossing the street, so be on alert around schools or playgrounds.
  • Obey speed limits in school zones.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • When stopping at an intersection, do not block the crosswalk as this forces pedestrians, including young children, to walk in what may be the path of moving vehicles.

Above all else, do not pass a stopped school bus even if its flashing yellow lights have not yet been activated. Take a moment to be certain that it is not about to discharge passengers.

When an accident happens, speak with a Tampa personal injury attorney

If an accident happens, get advice that you can rely upon and trust from a Tampa personal injury lawyer at KF&B Law. A free consultation provides you with options for recovering compensation against a negligent driver responsible for causing the accident.