Those yellow buses are carrying the most precious cargo of all – our children. School bus safety should always be a priority and it is proving to be just that in Florida. Generally speaking, school buses are very safe. In fact, a 2014 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that approximately 500 teens and children die annually in car accidents during school travel hours. When it comes to teens and children on school buses during those same hours, the number drops to about four.
Seatbelts and School Bus Safety
Florida is one of a few states that require seat belts on school buses. The fact that kids are seldom hurt or killed riding a school bus has been an argument against seatbelts in many states and communities across the nation. However, any child’s life lost when it could have been spared is not acceptable. Even though seatbelts are an added expense, they reduce the amount of injury and death to bus riders by half. Florida parents can be happy with this statistic.
House Bill 1239
In March, another school bus safety bill, House Bill 1239, passed. According to the Florida Senate, this bill “Provides for mandatory noncriminal penalties, fine, driver license suspension, & driver license points for certain violations resulting in serious bodily injury to/death of another person.” This bill is also known as the Cameron Mayhew Act. It is intended to increase penalties for motorists who fail to stop for a school bus.
Before the bill, fines and penalties were lighter for non-criminal charges. If a person unlawfully passed a school bus, the state did not necessarily have to charge the person with a criminal offense. However, with the new law, drivers will now pay a $1,500 fine instead of $1,000 and there will be a one-year suspension of the driver’s license instead of six months. The driver will also be required to attend a victim’s impact panel and complete 120 hours of community service. The service must be performed in a hospital or at a trauma center. They will also have six points on their driver’s license.
School Bus Safety and the Stop Sign
When a school bus is stopped and its stop sign extended, it’s hard to believe that any driver would ignore the sign. Yet, after doing some research, Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, and his staff discovered that about 10,000 people run school bus stop signs daily on Florida roadways. It’s not clear if this is due to ignorance of the law or negligence. Eagle sees HB 1239 as a step in the right direction to getting drivers to heed the law.
Sixteen-year-old Cameron Mayhew lost his life as he walked across the road to board his school bus. A driver ran the stop sign, hitting Mayhew and inflicting fatal injuries. The driver, Zachery Treinen, received a license suspension of six months and a fine of $1,000, in addition to court costs. This is the accident that sparked HB 1239.
Florida will continue to make school bus safety a priority. After all, those yellow buses carry our most priceless possessions. At Frohlich, Gordon & Beason, P.A., we support measures to keep the citizens of Port Charlotte, Florida, and the surrounding areas safe and healthy. We are also there to help when cases of personal injury or wrongful death occur. Call or email us for a consultation if you have a case that needs representation. We care about our clients and bring all our resources to bear in order to provide fair compensation for your losses.