By Lt. Gregory S. Bueno,
Florida Highway Patrol
Welcome back to school, Southwest Florida! This coming 2021-2022 school year is probably the most anticipated start of a school year…EVER! After a year of many changes and adjustments to our way of life, exciting times are now upon us as school is soon to be back in session.
Students will soon be devoting their full, in-person attention to all things academic, while teachers will be busy planning their days and setting classroom goals. School hallways will be filled with sounds of lockers closing, laughter, and feet scurrying to classrooms, and athletic fields will be used to help further develop student work ethic, team unity, and school pride.
As we prepare our community and families for this wonderful, long-awaited school year, we must also remind ourselves of the importance of making good choices, serving as role models for our future drivers, and staying safe in our daily commutes and after-school festivities.
Big yellow buses are back, making daily stops throughout southwest Florida, picking up and dropping off our leaders of tomorrow, as they patiently await roadside. Let’s also remember many children will choose to walk, ride bikes, or perhaps ride to school in the family car.
Now is the perfect time to reflect on your driving habits, refresh your knowledge of traffic laws, and engage in safety conversations with family and friends. Add these safety tips to your back-to-school checklist to help make this school year our safest ever.
• Assess driving habits. Remember, young passengers mimic what they see.
• Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and mind on driving at all times.
• When backing out of a driveway, walk around the vehicle to make sure no child is in the area, look directly through the rear window, and back out slowly.
• Be alert, especially around buses, bus stops, driveways, and parking lots.
• Always stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended.
• Monitor your child’s school bus stop and ensure they wait in a safe place away from the road.
• Seatbelts save lives and are required to be worn by all drivers and front-right passengers and anyone under the age of 18; however, we strongly recommend everyone, regardless of age, to buckle up.
• Children under the age of five are required to be in a properly secured, federally approved child restraint device.
• Children should be in the rear seats until at least age 12.
• All bicycle riders and passengers under age 16 are required to wear a helmet.
• Always wear a properly fitted helmet and securely fasten the strap.
• Wear appropriate shoes (no flip flops or barefoot), bright colors, pay attention, ride in the same direction as traffic, stay as far right as possible, use bike lanes when available, and if desired, ride on sidewalks.
• Closely monitor children riding anywhere in the vicinity of driveways or roadways.
• Use the sidewalk; if no sidewalk present, walk against the direction of traffic.
• Be seen and stay alert.
• Pay attention. Avoid wearing headphones so that you can hear the traffic and pedestrians around you.
• Make sure all children are out of the vehicle and accounted for before leaving. Put your purse or wallet in the back seat as a reminder to check.
• Never leave a child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle. Florida temperatures are hot and will rapidly increase in minutes, even if parked in the shade or with a window cracked.