Travel Safer on Florida’s roadways with these handy tips.
When you’re on the road, you’re sharing it with lots of other vehicles, including commercial trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and school buses. The better educated everyone is about Florida’s laws concerning each of these, the safer we will all be. Above all, it’s important we each show proper respect for the other people we share the road with. Everyone has the right to be there and everyone deserves proper courtesy that goes beyond the letter of the law.
Keeping our kids safe by following school bus laws.
According to a Florida Department of Education survey, it’s estimated that over 3.7 million drivers illegally pass school buses each school year. Each illegal pass-by could result in a tragic injury or fatality of a student. So Florida’s departments of Education, Transportation, and Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles teamed up to develop the “Stop on Red, Kids Ahead” campaign to remind drivers of school bus laws. Drivers who improperly pass a stopped school bus commit a moving violation subject to citation and will be required to complete a basic Driver Improvement Course upon conviction.
Follow these basic laws the next time you approach a stopped school bus:*
- On a two-lane road or multi-lane road other than a divided highway, vehicles in BOTH directions must stop until the bus retracts its Stop sign and resumes moving.
- On a divided highway with a raised median or barrier, all vehicles behind the bus must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction may proceed with caution.
Safely sharing the road with large trucks
Eighty-eight percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks are attributable to driver error by both the automobile and truck drivers. Vehicle defects, road conditions, or inclement weather are only responsible for 12 percent of accidents. Troopers are on the lookout for aggressive driving, such as following too closely, unsafe lane changes and speeding violations committed by truck and car drivers.
Follow these tips to safely interact with large trucks while on the road:**
- Trucks have very large blind spots so stay safely away from those areas.
- When passing a large truck, allow one car length for every 10 mph you are traveling. Remember, the stopping distance for large trucks is much greater than for automobiles. Cutting it too close can cut your life short.
- It’s not safe to tailgate any vehicle on the highway, but large trucks are particularly dangerous because their size prevents you from seeing the road ahead and reacting to slowing or stopped traffic.
- Only change lanes when you can see both of a truck’s headlights in your rearview mirror.
Riding your bike in a safe and lawful manner.
According to Florida law, a bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle and bicyclists are considered drivers. The same traffic laws that apply to other vehicle drivers apply to bicyclists, including stopping for stop signs and red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway and more.
Follow these Florida bicycle laws to enjoy a safe trip:***
- When riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks, a bicyclist has the same rights as a pedestrian and must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
- A bike being ridden at night must be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from 500 feet and both a red reflector and a rear lamp exhibiting a red light visible from 600 feet.
- A bicyclist who is not traveling at the same speed of other traffic must ride in a designated bike lane or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
- Persons riding bicycles on a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
- A signal of intention to turn must be given during the last 100 feet traveled by the bicycle before turning.
- A bicyclist may not wear a headset, headphone, or other listening device other than a hearing aid when riding.
- Every bicycle must be equipped with a brake or brakes which allow the rider to stop within 25 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.
Learning proper motorcycle safety awareness
As dangerous as our roads can be for motorists, they can be even more so for motorcycle riders who are less protected and often harder to see. Recent traffic laws help with safety education and driving safety. Now all motorcyclists must pass the motorcycle knowledge and skills test for a motorcycle endorsement. Another law requires an operator of a motorcycle or moped to maintain both wheels on the ground at all times and the license tag of a motorcycle or moped must be affixed horizontally.
Motorcycle owners should follow these tips to safely share the road with motorists:*
- Take a Motorcycle Rider Safety Course to develop good techniques.
- Get a motorcycle endorsement on your driver license.
- Wear bright clothing and retroreflective material to be sure you’re seen.
- Inspect your motorcycle before each ride.
- Know the local traffic laws and rules of the road and obey them.
- Show courtesy and respect to other drivers.
Automobile owners should follow these tips to safely share the road with motorcyclists:
- Check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections;
- Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle since riders sometimes forget to turn them off;
- Road conditions which are minor annoyances to passenger vehicles pose major hazards to motorcyclists;
- Do not tailgate. Allow more following distance when following a motorcycle, so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
Avoid being a victim of vehicle cloning
One of the latest vehicle theft schemes involves copying a vehicle identification number (VIN) from a legally owned vehicle sitting in a public place, such as a parking lot, and using it as the basis to create a counterfeit VIN tag. Next, the criminals steal a vehicle similar to the one with the legitimate VIN. The stolen vehicle’s legitimate VIN tag is replaced with the counterfeit one, making it a “clone” of the original vehicle. Finally, the criminals create counterfeit ownership documents for the cloned vehicle in order to sell the stolen vehicle to an innocent purchaser.
Follow these tips to avoid purchasing a cloned vehicle:**
- Check the vehicle VIN through the Department’s Motor Vehicle Check website to verify ownership and vehicle description information.
- Analyze the ownership pattern for any new or late model vehicle with no lien holder.
- Be careful about purchasing a used vehicle from an individual running a newspaper ad and using a cell phone number
- Get a copy of the vehicle’s history report.
- If possible, have your insurer inspect the vehicle prior to purchase.
- Trust your instincts: If you don’t like the answers or the deal sounds too good to be true, walk away!
- Check out the VIN plate on the dashboard for any evidence of tampering (scratches, etc.).
- Look for incorrect spellings on paperwork, like vehicle titles.
- Rest assured that the United States Department of Justice is in the process of developing an electronic database that links state motor vehicle departments together. Once operational, this system should help deter car cloning by ensuring that when a vehicle is titled in one state, a vehicle with the same VIN number cannot be similarly titled in another state.
*Source: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
**Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
***Source: Florida Bicycle Association