FORT MYERS, Fla. — A child hit by a car, even after local law enforcement says increased penalties were put in place to prevent this very thing from happening.
A driver swerving around a school bus on Daniels Pkwy and Cobalt Cir. in Fort Myers struck a child Thursday morning. Lee County School District says the driver’s side mirror hit the 6-year-old girl’s arm.
Southwest Florida agencies have warned about this in recent weeks. During an operation Wednesday, Collier County Sheriff’s deputies wrote three citations for drivers failing to stop behind school buses with their stop sign extended and red lights flashing.
Jay Anderson with Stay Alive, Just Drive - an organization that warns against distracted driving - says it boils down to individual choices.
“Unfortunately, the poor child suffered the consequences of that decision and that choice,” he said.
Florida fines have even doubled to deter drivers from doing this. It’s now $200 if you pass a stopped school bus.
But, Anderson says fines increasing mean nothing if people’s perspectives don’t change.
“People drive as if they’re suggestions, and that’s part of the problem,” said Anderson.
That fine jumps to $400 if you pass on the righthand side, a fitting price according to Master Sergeant Patrick O’Grady with Cape Coral Police Department.
“It is so dangerous passing on the right, when the bus is stopped, and the kids are getting on,” he said.
O’Grady says he hasn’t seen a rise or decline in these violations since the new law went into effect earlier this month, but warns drivers to think about the students if nothing else.
“These kids are going to be our future. They’re going to be our leaders. So, why would you jeopardize their lives?” he asked.
Anderson says roads will be much safer if drivers ask two questions when they’re behind the wheel.
“Number 1, is it necessary? And Number 2, is it worth the risk?” he asked.
If you violate that law and go around a stopped bus twice in five years, your license could get suspended for up to one year. If you pass on the righthand side where children get on and off twice with 5 years, your license can be suspended for up to two years.
Lee County Schools shared data on violations against drivers passing stopped buses between 2013 and 2019, excluding 2016. 2014 had the fewest number of violations with 218. 2017 had the most, with nearly a thousand. Data for 2020 has not been completed.
Here’s a full list of those statistics:
2019 | 807
2018 | 637
2017 | 968
2015 | 334
2014 | 218
2013 | 366