The wheels on the bus go all around Alachua County with schools opening their doors for the 2022-2023 academic year. With school in session, safety issues also crop up.
In 2021, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reported 2,700 crashes involving school buses. A semi-truck collided with a Levy County bus in April, sending five students to the hospital.
The Florida Legislature doubled penalties for violating traffic laws concerning school buses, and a repeat offense within five years leads to a license suspension.
When to stop for school buses:
- Single-lane Road—vehicles travelling in both directions must stop until all children have cleared the road and the bus stop sign retracts
- Two-lane Road—vehicles travelling in both directions must stop. This includes two-lane roads with a center turn lane.
- Two-lane Road with median—if a 5-foot concrete or grass median separates the lanes, vehicles traveling in the same direction as the school bus must stop. Vehicles traveling the opposite direction must use caution but can proceed.
Also, drivers in a school zone can’t use handheld phones.
“This morning we saw that traditional backup, and people getting frustrated,” said Kaley Behl, spokesperson for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), in a phone call on Wednesday.
She said the sheriff’s office has all hands on deck to deal with traffic as drivers remember how traffic patterns run during the school year. Behl added that traffic will shift again when UF returns, especially close to campus and student housing.
The ACSO also prepared for active shooter scenarios over the summer, using the old Terwilliger Elementary School location and Oak View Middle School as training sites. Everyone from lieutenants on down participated, Behl said.
Newberry Commissioner Rick Coleman encouraged caution leading into the first week of school during a regular commission meeting on Monday.
“School is starting early this week, and everybody needs to be careful and get up earlier than usual,” Coleman said. “Just be careful with all the children.”
Besides bus safety, school zones will start using crossing guards and slower speed limits. These measures will slow traffic around schools, and Terry Rhodes, FLHSMV executive director, reminded drivers to be vigilant in an announcement.