~ Motorists are reminded to drive safely as children go back to school ~
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) recognizes August as Child Safety Awareness Month and reminds motorists to drive safely on Florida roads as children go back to school. FLHSMV is educating the public on all aspects of child safety in and around vehicles in conjunction with the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Education, Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
“Keeping children safe as they travel to and from school within vehicles, on bikes or on foot is everyone’s duty,” said FLHSMV Executive Director, Terry L. Rhodes. “Trends in the department’s data are heartbreaking and it is critical for adults to demonstrate safe driving behaviors to help reduce the amount of tragic incidents that occur on our roadways. This campaign and the support from our many partners truly articulates the state’s commitment to our most precious cargo: our children.”
In 2018, there were 130,055 children age 0 to 17 involved in a crash in Florida resulting in 1,438 serious bodily injuries and 155 fatalities. As children travel to and from school, motorists must ensure they arrive safely by obeying school zone speed limits, remaining attentive around child pedestrians and bicyclists, and properly stopping for school buses. In 2018, there were 3,177 school bus crashes in Florida.
“As the parents of two young kids, the Governor and I urge all Floridians to drive safely and follow all speed limits and traffic laws, especially in school zones and near school buses,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “We all share the responsibility to remain attentive on the roads and help keep our children out of harm’s way. We must also be vigilant to ensure children are always properly secured in vehicles and that we are being mindful in areas where children are present. Our actions and awareness are paramount.”
“This month, as children head back to school, FHP reminds you to drive safely and slow down in school zones,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Ensure children age five and under are in the right car seat or booster seat and everyone under the age of 18 is buckled up. As the driver, it’s your responsibility.”
Florida law requires that all drivers and all passengers under the age of 18 wear a seat belt. Law enforcement issued 8,761 citations last year to motorists for not properly securing children in a vehicle. Motorists who need assistance identifying, installing and using proper child restraints may contact the FHP for help. Motorists may make an appointment and bring their current car seat to a local FHP Troop station for a free car seat check.
Starting October 1, 2019, the Wireless Communications While Driving Law prohibits the use of a wireless communications device in a handheld manner while driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone area. The law provides for enforcement only by a warning for this section from October 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019, after which a person may be issued a citation. Violators commit a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation, that includes a base $60 fine, not including court costs or other fees, and will have 3 points assessed against their driver license.
“DCF is committed to protecting children year-round, but we are especially proud to partner with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles during Child Safety Awareness Month,” said Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell. “Together, we can bring awareness to this important topic, ensuring our children are given the opportunity to succeed and make meaningful contributions to Florida’s bright future.”
“We must make every effort to protect our youngest and most vulnerable road users,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E. “Whether it’s properly fitting them in a child seat, booster seat, or safety belt, or watching out for them as they walk, bike or ride their scooters or bus, it is critical to take the time to ensure their safety before you go. The Department is proud to join with FLHSMV to recognize Child Safety Awareness Month.”
“Promoting public support of programs and services focused on the youth of our state is one of the major goals of the Florida Sheriffs Association,” said Florida Sheriffs Association President, Sheriff Mark Hunter. “As such, on behalf of our Florida sheriffs, I fully endorse this collective effort to protect our children.”
“Of all the calls that our police officers respond to each year, some of the most heart wrenching involve those where a child has been seriously injured or killed, said Temple Terrace Police Chief Kenneth Albano, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA). “The FPCA is honored to partner with Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles during Child Safety Awareness Month to remind drivers to always stay alert and be particularly aware of locations where a child could unexpectedly dart into their path. We encourage drivers to put their cell phones down, always stop for school buses, slowdown in school zones, use proper child restraints in vehicles and never leave a child alone in the car.”
FLHSMV also offers additional safety tips and downloaded resources for parents and children to keep kids safe in and around vehicles. Visit flhsmv.gov/ChildSafety for more information and use the hashtag #ChildSafetyFL throughout the month to see and share important child safety information.