August is recognized as Child Safety Awareness month.
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communications News
Throughout August, children in Florida will begin to head back to school over the next few weeks. To raise awareness, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), its division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), and state-wide safety partners will run a month-long Child Safety Awareness Month campaign.
The campaign will educate and engage Florida’s parents, caregivers, and motorists on safe driving with and around children.
“Our morning and afternoon commutes will start to look different as the school year begins, but one thing that must remain constant is our commitment to driving safely,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “This Child Safety Awareness Month, and every month, I urge all motorists to be vigilant on the roads and remind parents and caregivers to ensure children are protected when in and around cars.”
According to a release, 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 2021, there were 118,668 children ages 0 to 17 involved in a crash in Florida, resulting in 1,215 serious bodily injuries and 167 fatalities, and 2,700 school bus crashes in Florida.
“As we look forward to a new school year, FHP urges all drivers to be extremely cautious during their daily commutes. Slowdown in school zones, do not drive distracted, and stop for stopped school buses,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Our children are our future, and they are depending on you to protect them.”
Florida law requires the use of seat belts or child restraint devices by drivers of motor vehicles, all front-seat passengers, and all children under eighteen while riding in a car. Florida law also requires children ages five and under to be secured in a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device. Thirty-three percent of child passengers killed in vehicle crashes in Florida were not wearing any restraints. A seat belt or child restraint is a vehicle’s most important safety feature, but it only works if they are used and used correctly, every time.
Below are a few back-to-school checklist items parents, caregivers, and motorists can use to ensure child safety both in and out of a vehicle:
Secure their future – buckle up and choose the right seat
- Seat belts save lives and are required by all drivers, front-right passengers, and anyone under eighteen; however, FLHSMV strongly recommends seat belt usage for all ages.
- The best car seat is the one that fits your child’s size, is correctly installed, fits well in your car, and is used every time you drive.
- Be sure to read the seat’s instruction manual and the portion of your vehicle’s owner manual when installing a car seat in your vehicle.
- Remember to check for car seat and booster seat recalls and signs up to receive any potential alerts in the future.
Stop for school buses and slow down in school zones
- As of January 1, 2021, the penalties for failing to stop for a school bus and passing a stopped school bus on the side where children enter, and exit doubled. It is imperative that all motorists properly stop for school buses so all of Florida’s children can arrive at school or home safely.
- Using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner while driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone area is against the law and extremely dangerous.
- Be alert and watch for children, especially near schools, bus stops, buses, and in-school parking lots. Pay extra attention to the lower speed limits in school zones. Only drive or park in authorized areas to drop off or pick up children at school.
Move safely together – look out before you step out
- Always walk on the sidewalk if there is one. If no sidewalks are present, walk against the direction of traffic to see oncoming traffic.
- Cross the roadway where pedestrians are expected, at corners or crosswalks, and watch for traffic when crossing the street.
- Pay attention. Avoid headphones so that you can hear the traffic and pedestrians around you. Never text or look at your phone when crossing the street.
Check for kids and pets
- As routines change, it is imperative to remain vigilant and ensure all children are out of the vehicle and accounted for before leaving. Put your purse, phone, or shoe in the backseat as a reminder to check.
- Never leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle. Florida temperatures are hot and will rapidly increase in minutes, even if parked in the shade or with a window cracked.
For additional safety tips, resources, and data related to child safety, visit https://www.flhsmv.gov.