TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – At the close of the first week of school across Tampa Bay, multiple sheriff’s offices have doled out dozens of school-zone warnings. 8 On Your Side is reminding you that a new school-zone traffic law goes into effect Oct. 1.
While Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office representatives say the warning period for school-zone traffic citations can go until Oct. 1, many local law enforcement officials have seen an uptick in the number of warnings they’ve had to write.
Early this week, the Sarasota Police Department put a reminder on its Facebook page.
“Officers working the school zone at Southside Elementary today stopped a driver going 64 mph in a 15 mph school zone,” the caption said.
While that case is extreme, it’s a reminder to commuters across the area that there are consequences to carelessness in a school zone.
Other agencies are also seeing a spike in reckless driving in school zones.
While Pinellas County deputies have only handed out five tickets during this first week of school – three for speeding in a school zone and two for passing a school bus – 38 warnings have been given to drivers this week, according to PCSO spokesman Sgt. Spencer Gross.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Wilder told 8 On Your Side that since the beginning of the school year, they’ve issues four total citations.
Three citations were for speeding in a school zone and one was for illegally passing a stopped school bus, Wilder said.
However, Wilder said the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has also handed out nearly two dozen warnings for people speeding in school zones.
Pinellas County school zone violations
Take a look at the school zone violations in Pinellas County from August 14 to August 16 2019. Hover over the bar to see the numbers.
Source: Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
On Oct. 1, most agencies say that warning period is over, and this year they have a new statute to enforce.
Early this summer, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a ban on texting and driving. In that statute, drivers are limited to hands-free use of phone only while driving through school and construction zones.
“With this statute, we have to physically see someone holding their phone to speak to someone or use it,” said Sgt. Gross. “The only challenge that might be presented is if the windows of a vehicle are tinted. “
According to the Transportation Research Board, about 100 children are killed each year while walking to or from school and about 25,000 are injured. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous. Over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.