Each year, Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV) names August “Child Safety Awareness Month,” just in time for kids to head back to school. The goal is to remind drivers to be aware of children walking to and from school or the bus as they drive along Florida’s roads, and also to make sure children are securely fastened in their own vehicles.
In 2016, children under the age of 18 suffered 1,996 serious bodily injuries and 161 fatalities in Florida accidents, representing a 32 percent fatality increase since 2014.
To help combat this issue, FHSMV focuses on educating the public about proper seat restraints, driving safety around school zones and school buses, pedestrian and bicycle safety, heatstroke prevention and safety issues for teen drivers.
Drivers must be sure their driving behavior is appropriate with the increased number of children on the road as school starts up again. This means slowing down in school zones, stopping for school buses and following all instructions issued by crossing guards near schools.
What does the law say?
Under Florida law, all drivers and passengers under the age of 18 must wear seatbelts. Florida police officers issued about 9,000 tickets last year to drivers who did not properly secure children with seatbelts or car seats.
The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) helps state residents identify and install proper child restraints. Over the last year, the FHP provided 71 car seat installations and safety checks to residents who asked for them. This service is provided for free.
Under the Cameron Mayhew Act, there are now increased penalties for drivers who illegally pass school buses in a manner that results in injury or death. These motorists now face a minimum of a $1,500 fine and a one-year driver’s license suspension.