M.A.G.I.C. TO SCHOOL SAFETY CONTINUES!
As parents and children across Citrus County prepare for the new school year, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office would like to remind you of M.A.G.I.C. As part of our continuing efforts to make Citrus County a safer community and protecting our youth, we will be taking a proactive approach in conducting enforcement and education efforts. Our way of Making A Greater Individual Commitment (M.A.G.I.C.) to School Safety and the students of Citrus County starts with your help.
What can you do exactly? You can start simply by watching out for buses loading and unloading students. It may sound like repetitive information, but I would like to remind drivers that it is unlawful to pass a school bus with their signals activated. According to Florida State Statute (F.S.S.) 316.172, all vehicles must come to a complete stop when approaching a school bus with its stop signals displayed. Drivers may not pass a school bus until the stop signal is completely withdrawn.
So, when can you legally and safely pass a school bus with its signals displayed? When you are driving on a divided highway with either an unpaved space of at least 5 feet, a raised median, or a physical barrier, you are not required to stop when traveling in the opposite direction of a school bus. Nonetheless, drivers should always remain cautious when passing or moving towards a stopped bus. Remember to maintain a safe distance away from the school bus as they stop frequently, loading and unloading students.
We talk a lot about school zone safety and rules of the road, but I wanted to highlight some other important knowledge regarding bicycle laws and how your child can safely make it to school and back to home. Sometimes parents and guardians are unaware of bike laws and therefore fail to have those additional safety nets for their young children. If you are not familiar, a bicycle rider or passenger who is under 16 years of age must wear a bicycle helmet. The helmet must be properly fitted and fastened securely by a strap, meeting the federal safety standard for bicycle helmets.
After safely fastening their helmets, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadways must use the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. Any person using a bicycle on or along a sidewalk is required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before passing them. Which brings me to my next topic of discussion, pedestrian safety.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 5,977 pedestrians and 783 bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles in the United States during 2017. That’s nearly 7,000 senseless lives loss. We do not want to be a part of those statistics, we can greatly mitigate our chances simply by following the rules and regulations put into place to protect our bicyclist and pedestrians.
Pedestrians, especially students, should walk on the sidewalk when available during their course of travel and if sidewalks are not provided, walk along the shoulder of the roadway; avoiding the paved area for traffic. Bicyclist and pedestrians alike should always yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing the roadway regardless of marked or unmarked crosswalks. In the same respect, drivers are required to stop and remain stopped at any crosswalk where signage indicates to allow pedestrians to cross.
Crossing roadways can be rather hazardous for our students, especially when drivers fail to adhere to posted speed limits. Per F.S.S. 316.1895, no school zone speed limit shall be more than 20 miles per hour in a residential area. The speed limit may be enforced 30 minutes before, during, and after the arrival and departure of students during regularly scheduled school session. What this means for drivers is that they may not drive at speeds greater than posted in the school zone. If they do, they will be cited for a moving violation. A school zone violation fine can range anywhere from $50 to $2,000 depending on how much over the speed limit the driver is going.
Speaking of violations, as of July 1, 2019, utilizing a wireless communications device while driving is a primary offense. Florida drivers can now be stopped and cited for texting while driving. The first violation for drivers is a non-moving offense with no points assessed to the driver's record and the second is a moving violation with three points assessed to the driver's record. More importantly, starting October 1, 2019, wireless communications devices can only be used in a hands-free manner when driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone area. This new law adds an extra layer of protection for our students on the way to school and will undoubtedly prevent crashes to save our most precious resource.
Keeping these tips and laws in mind, I hope everyone has a safe, fun, and M.A.G.I.C. school year!
Yours in Service,
Sheriff Mike Prendergast
Emergency - 911
Non-Emergency - 352-726-1121
Inverness Ops Center - 352-726-4488
Inverness Civil Office - 352-341-6525
Beverly Hills / Ridge Area - 352-746-3484
Crystal River / Gulf Region - 352-795-4241