The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has a reminder for motorists this time of year. With thousands of school children in Florida and around the nation returning to classrooms this fall, NHTSA has issued an advisory urging drivers to be cautious in school zones and around school bus stops.

Analyzing accident data between 2002 and 2012, NHTSA found that on average, 75 school-age pedestrians are killed each year during school travel. By comparison, four school-age children are killed each year while occupants of school buses or other vehicles used as school buses.

Florida’s No Fault Law

Many consumers may not be aware that Florida’s No Fault Insurance law – requiring drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection when operating a vehicle in the state – not only covers you and your children when riding in your car. It also covers your children if they should ever be in an accident and suffer injury while riding on a school bus.

Under “No Fault,” compensation is available regardless of who caused the accident, and it is generally not necessary to sue the driver responsible unless damages exceed $10,000. Recent changes in the law, however, require injured patients to seek medical treatment within 14 days of the accident in order to receive reimbursement for medical bills, and the compensation is capped at $2,500 unless the patient had what is deemed an “emergency medical condition.”

Florida, like many other states, enacted No Fault Insurance laws to help simplify the process of providing compensation to those injured in motor vehicle accidents. The approach is intended to take small claims out of the courts and theoretically lower the cost of insurance. But when damages exceed the minimum coverage of $10,000 and it becomes necessary to sue, an experienced personal injury attorney can help guide accident victims through the legal process and make sure they receive maximum compensation.

Safety First

Far better, of course, is to avoid such accidents altogether, especially those involving children traveling to and from school. Toward that end, NHTSA is reminding motorists that children are often poor judges of vehicle speeds and may miscalculate when it is safe to cross the street.

The agency is also calling on motorists to become familiar with state laws requiring cars to stop for school buses as they pick up or drop off children. In Florida, the law requires drivers to come to a complete stop upon approaching a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop sign extended, “and the vehicle shall not pass the school bus until the signal has been withdrawn.”

That applies to vehicles traveling in the opposite direction of the school bus as well as those traveling behind the bus or in an adjacent lane. The only exception is when driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway “with an unpaved space of at least 5 feet, a raised median, or a physical barrier.” Only when such a divider is present may an approaching car in the opposite direction proceed despite the bus’s flashing lights and stop sign.

When an unfortunate accident does occur, we will make sure you understand the process and help you get the compensation that you or your child needs. Contact Reed & Reed, with offices in Brandon and Tampa, for a free consultation.