Mar 25, 2024

Drivers Can Help Make Walking to School Safer for Pinellas Students

Walking to School Image

Parents of children attending Clearwater Central Catholic High School in Pinellas County are worried about the lack of pedestrian safety measures on one busy county road leading to the school.

Haines Bayshore Road contains no sidewalks or bicycle lanes, despite the many students who travel along it daily. This road is just one of many in Pinellas County that worry both parents and motorists, who have expressed concerns about safe driving near schools.

The Issue with Haines Bayshore Road

Clearwater Central Catholic High School students must walk either on the road or dangerously close to it in order to get school. As drainage culverts run along many parts of Haines Bayshore Road, students are limited in how far they can walk away from the road.

“> They have absolutely no sidewalk to ride on out of the traffic. We can’t share the road; there’s no bike lane,” one parent explained to News Channel 8, saying it was an accident waiting to happen. “A car could go six inches off onto the grass and oops.”

A Problem Throughout the Tampa Bay Area

St. Petersburg and Tampa parents are certainly no strangers to the worries felt by the parents of Clearwater Central Catholic High School students. Just under a year ago, a 17-year-old student was struck and killed by a motorist while trying to cross Busch Boulevard to get to her high school.

There is only one crosswalk available to students trying to cross this frantic highway, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

School zones are often used to mitigate the issue of speeding motorists, but only elementary and middle schools are eligible for school zones, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. This puts high school students who must cross and walk along busy roads, like the students of Clearwater Central Catholic High School, at risk.

So how can motorists in Pinellas County do their part to drive safely in these areas where students may not have the best pedestrian safety measures, such as sidewalks and crosswalks, or the protection of a school zone?

Drive Slowly

Even if the school you’re driving by doesn’t classify as a school zone, it doesn’t give you free license to speed. Lower your speed when passing by a school, or any roads where students may cross walking to school, in order to avoid striking any of these young pedestrians.

Give Pedestrians the Right of Way

In our state of Florida, motorists must yield to pedestrians in any portion of the roadway, so even if you have the right of way as a motorist, you are required to yield to crossing students. Without pedestrian safety measures like school zones and marked crosswalks, these students often have a small window of time to cross the road, and motorists must be mindful of this fact when they drive near schools to avoid potential accidents.

Don’t Fiddle with Your Phone When Driving Near a School

There is no place where distracted driving is acceptable, but it is especially dangerous in an area where students are walking and biking to school. Remove the temptation to check your phone while on the road by turning it off and placing it away in your glove compartment or bag. Save your snacks for when you arrive at your destination, not your commute, as consuming food and beverages while driving has been linked to an 80 percent increased likelihood of a crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Watch for Cyclists

Young cyclists may not be as confident on their bicycle as an adult, and may sometimes operate their bicycle in an unpredictable manner. Always drive cautiously and slowly around students cycling to school and give plenty of clearance between your car and the cyclist.

It is state law that motorist must give a safe distance of three feet at a minimum when passing a cyclist.

Come to Complete Stops

One-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones and neighborhoods near schools, according to research by the American Automobile Association Exchange. Take the extra time to come to a complete stop, as students may assume cars will a full stop at the stop sign and dart out into traffic without looking.

Unfortunately, until infrastructure and pedestrian safety measures are improved around schools in Pinellas County and Tampa Bay as a whole, student pedestrians will be put at risk every time they walk to school, and drivers will have to remain cautious.

If you or someone you love were harmed in an accident caused by the actions of a negligent driver, our attorneys may be able to help. Read more to learn how our car accident attorneys can help you navigate the sometimes complex world of car accident insurance claims. If you are ready to pursue a claim, please fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.