The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) recognizes August as Child Safety Awareness Month and reminds motorists to do their part in protecting children on Florida roads by driving safely. FLHSMV is educating the public on all aspects of child safety in and around vehicles in partnership with the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Education, Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association and AAA – The Auto Club Group.
“While back-to-school routines and travel schedules may look a bit different this year, it is more important than ever to be mindful of our smallest, but most precious cargo – our children,” said FLHSMV Executive Director, Terry L. Rhodes. “It is critical for adults to always model safe driving behaviors to instill good habits for future drivers and reduce the number of fatalities on our roadways. Whether you are learning and working from home, or making the commute to school and work, attentiveness is critical to prevent tragedies from occurring.”
Preliminarily in 2019, there were 127,285 children age 0 to 17 involved in a crash in Florida resulting in 1,361 serious bodily injuries and 142 fatalities. As children travel to and from school or just biking around the neighborhood, 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. Starting January 1, 2021, the penalties for passing a school bus will be 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.
The Florida highway patrol (FHP) also reminds motorists that the Wireless Communications While Driving Law prohibits the use of a wireless communications device in a handheld manner while driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone area. Violators commit a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation, that includes a base $60 fine, not including court costs or other fees, and will have three points assessed against the driver license.
“As the driver, it’s your responsibility to ensure that children in the vehicle are properly restrained in a seatbelt or child safety restraint,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, FHP director. “FHP encourages you to properly restrain your children in the vehicle every time you travel. It is critically important we ensure the safety of our children as they travel our state’s roadways.”
Florida law requires that all drivers and all passengers under the age of 18 wear a seat belt. Law enforcement issued 8,403 citations last year to motorists for not properly securing children in a vehicle. Motorists who need assistance identifying, installing and using proper child restraints may contact the FHP for help.
As temperatures in Florida remain high, it is crucial that no children or pets are left in vehicles for any amount of time. So far in 2020, there have been 14 child heatstroke deaths in the United States. Although this is lower than previous years, parents and caregivers need to remain vigilant as routines change in August.
Keep vehicles in driveways and garages locked and store keys out of reach to prevent a child from gaining access.
When getting out of your vehicle, check to make sure all children are out of the vehicle and accounted for. Put a purse or other important item in the backseat with your child as a reminder.
If you see a child or pet locked in a hot car, take immediate action by calling 911. Florida law, section 768.139, Florida Statutes, provides for the rescue of a vulnerable person or domestic animal from a motor vehicle.
Teach children to never play in, on, around, or under vehicles. Keep toys or bicycles off the driveway.
For interactive dashboards of crash and citation data related to children, additional safety tips, and downloadable resources for parents and children to keep kids safe in and around vehicles, visit the FLHSMV Child Safety webpage, and use the hashtag #ChildSafetyFL throughout the month to see and share important child safety information.