Protect Kids and Pets From Death in Hot Cars 

In the last 25 years, nearly 1,000 children in the U.S. have died from heat after being left in, or becoming trapped in a parked vehicle. Florida has the second highest number of vehicular heatstroke deaths in the nation, after Texas. And according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, hundreds of pets perish every year after being left in hot cars. All of these deaths are entirely preventable. With record-breaking heat, be aware that leaving a child or a pet in a vehicle for even a few minutes can prove fatal.

The inside of a vehicle heats up much faster than you may realize. According to a study by the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences, a vehicle parked with an outside air temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit will reach an internal temperature of 109 degrees in 10 minutes, 119 degrees in 20 minutes, 124 degrees in 30 minutes, and 133 degrees in 60 minutes. As we all know, 90 degrees can be on the low end of our summer temperatures. With the mercury reaching 95 degrees outside on many days, the inside of a vehicle will get correspondingly hotter, even faster.

I’m leaving the window cracked. That isn’t nearly enough. Studies have shown that leaving windows cracked has little effect on the internal temperature. Parking in the shade isn’t good enough either. I’m just running inside for a minute. There is no such thing as a safe amount of time to leave kids or pets in a vehicle. A child’s body temperature rises up to five times faster than an adult’s, so they are especially vulnerable. Heatstroke can begin when the core body temperature reaches 104 degrees. Children can die when their core body temperature is 107 degrees.

Some kids or pets are deliberately left in hot cars because their caregivers don’t recognize the danger. Other times – strange as it may seem – people forget to take their child or pet out of the car. They may be distracted, or think that another caregiver has taken them. Always check the back of your vehicle, and find a way to remind yourself – you can leave a note in the front, or put your wallet in the back seat to make sure you look back there. Some deaths are caused by a child gaining access to a vehicle themselves and getting trapped unbeknownst to their parents. Make sure your vehicle is locked, and don’t let children have access to the keys.

If you can’t take your pet inside with you, leave them at home. Animals overheat quickly too – dogs don’t sweat, and only cool down by panting. Leaving water in the car isn’t enough. It is never a good idea to leave an animal alone in a vehicle, but never do it if the temperature is above 70 degrees.

If you see a child or animal left in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately – this is an emergency situation. You can take a photo of the back of the vehicle to show the make, model, and tag, and a photo of the child or pet inside the vehicle. If possible, have someone go inside where the driver might be to let them know. If the child or pet is in immediate danger and help may not arrive in time, you are well within the law to break the vehicle window to save a life. Statute 768.139 states that a person who enters a motor vehicle, by force or otherwise, for the purpose of removing a vulnerable person or domestic animal is immune from civil liability for damage to the motor vehicle, as long as they are acting in good faith, call 911, use no more force than necessary to enter the vehicle, and remain on scene until a first responder arrives.

Posted by Laura Sullivan Tuesday, July 9, 2024 11:17:00 AM

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month 

In the US, motorcycles make up only three percent of all registered vehicles, and a minuscule 0.6 percent of total vehicle miles traveled. Despite that, motorcycles account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. That disproportionate number reflects their vulnerability. Additionally, more than 80,000 motorcyclists are injured each year. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and I urge you to be a safe rider.

Be visible, and be predictable. Simply put, motorcycles are hard to see. Most drivers are more cued-in to cars, and may miss motorcycles – hence the slogan look twice, save a life. Car drivers need to pay attention, but motorcycle operators have a responsibility too. Obey traffic control devices, and stick to the speed limit. Leave sufficient room between you and other vehicles. Check and signal before you change lanes, and never pass in the same lane or ride the line. Drive defensively, as if other vehicles don’t see you – because often they may not.

If you are in a crash, a helmet can save your life or prevent traumatic brain injury. Find the style that matches your head shape, size, and the specific type of riding you do. The more comfortable your helmet is, the more likely you are to wear it on every ride. Make sure your helmet is DOT-compliant – look for the sticker on the back, and watch out for fakes. Some helmets sold as “novelty helmets” don’t meet safety standards. Helmets should be at least one inch thick with a stiff foam inner liner, and have sturdy, riveted chin straps. Beware of helmets advertised as “the lightest helmet” – helmets that meet safety standards usually weigh about three pounds.

Protect the rest of your body too. It may be uncomfortable to wear full gear in a Florida summer, but covering your arms and legs with denim or leather is a good idea. Wear gloves, and boots that come over the ankle too. Black leather may look good, but bright colors keep you safer. Opt for high-visibility colors on your upper body, and add reflectors to your clothing or to your ride.

And it should go without saying – know how to ride a motorcycle. I don’t just mean get a few pointers from your friend in an empty parking lot. You need a motorcycle endorsement to legally ride in the state of Florida. For that you must complete the Basic Rider Course, which teaches the fundamentals of riding your motorcycle responsibly and safely. Advanced courses which help prepare you for more extreme or unexpected situations are a good idea too. Take time to get used to your motorcycle, practicing in easy conditions and working your way up to more challenges as your skills improve. Know how to ride in the rain, and prepare for how you’ll handle slick roads or obstructions.

Keep your motorcycle in good repair, and check it before every ride. Check your tires – pressure and tread – as well as brakes, lights, signal, and fluids. Make sure loads are balanced, and that any necessary adjustments are made to compensate for additional weight.

Passengers need to know how to ride safely too – they’re not a passive spectator like a passenger in a car, but an active participant whose behavior can affect performance and safety. Make sure your passenger knows to mount only when the kickstand is raised and the motorcycle is braced, to keep their feet on the footrests, hold the driver’s waist or the handholds, and avoid making sudden moves. Be aware of how the extra weight and wind resistance will affect handling.

Pinellas County averages 524 motorcycle crashes and 27 fatalities annually. Ride smart to avoid becoming part of that statistic.


Posted by Laura Sullivan Friday, May 3, 2024 10:14:00 AM

Distracted Driving Awareness Month 

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and now and throughout the year you have to be more aware of the things that keep your concentration from the road. People often take driving for granted because it is such an everyday thing, but think about it: you are in charge of two tons or more of machinery that is moving at a high rate of speed through narrow lanes and complex maneuvers, with a lot of other people doing the very same thing. There is so much going on that if you lose focus even for a few seconds, disaster can ensue.

Texting is one of the main distractions. Think about how long it takes you to check a text, or even send a quick message like “almost there.” Maybe five seconds? That may not feel like a lot of time, but at 55 miles per hour you’ll travel the length of a football field in five seconds. A lot can happen in that time – cars changing lanes, a kid darting across the street, someone running a light. All of a sudden something that might have been a preventable accident is unavoidable because your eyes were on the screen.

With the hands-free options available today, there is no excuse for looking at your phone while driving. If you must read or write a text and can’t do it hands-free, then pull over. No text is worth a crash or potentially your life. Of course it’s not just texting. Check directions and hours of operation before you go so you’re not messing with your phone, and keep any mapping apps hands-free too.

Although you can legally use your phone for some things (like navigation) while driving, texting or emailing and driving are against the law and you could be issued a citation. In a construction or school zone you can’t use a phone in a handheld manner for any reason.

While they may be the biggest distractions, cell phones aren’t the only things that can keep your attention from the important task of driving. Anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off driving is a distraction. Eating is a big distraction. You’re taking at least one hand off the wheel, and we’ve all seen someone eating a burger with two hands while they drive, and know they’re steering with their knees, which isn’t smart.

Passengers are another major distraction. If you’re arguing with your significant other, laughing with rowdy friends, or tending to a child as you drive, you’re not focusing on driving. Your dog may love a car ride, but an unsecured pet can easily do things that take your attention from driving.

Have you ever inched your way through a traffic jam only to find not one crash blocking the road, but two or three separate ones? It is a natural human instinct to rubber-neck – we all want to find out what is going on – but looking at a crash, or anything on the side of the road is a distraction. Look just enough to be aware of what is going on, but don’t spend time staring at crashes or anything else on the side of the road, or you may well rear-end the car in front of you. And remember, Florida law requires you to move over one lane if you can safely do so for emergency vehicles, sanitation or utility vehicles, tow trucks, road maintenance or construction vehicles with warning lights, or any disabled vehicle on the side of the road. If you can’t safely change lanes, you must slow down to 20 miles per hour below the speed limit.

Posted by Laura Sullivan Tuesday, April 2, 2024 9:35:00 AM

Tax Season Safety 

One of the best ways to shield yourself from scams is to be aware of some of the things that government agencies, utilities, and other entities will never ask you to do. We at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) will never call you up telling you that you have a warrant and have to pay a fine to avoid arrest. And yet citizens in our community have been losing money to a scammer calling them up and impersonating our deputies. And no one – not PCSO, or Duke Energy, or your bank – will ever ask for payment in a non-traditional form. You can bet that if someone wants you to pay in gift cards or cryptocurrency then everything is not on the up-and-up.

Tax season brings its own financial dangers as scammers try to take advantage of your stress. Most of us are a little uncertain about our taxes – are we getting the right deductions, are we doing everything the proper way? We’re ready to believe that we might have made a costly mistake that will involve sending the IRS more money. Criminals will take advantage of that anxiety, playing on your fears to convince you that you owe money – and then persuade you to pay them instead of the government.

The first clue that someone might be scamming you is the method of communication. In almost every circumstance, the IRS will contact you by mail if there is a problem. Any follow-ups will also be through the mail. In very special circumstances you may eventually get a personal visit from an IRS agent – for a delinquent tax return or for a criminal charge of tax evasion – but even in those instances you would have received many letters in the mail first.

What you will NOT get from the IRS is a scary phone call. If anyone cold calls you claiming to be from the IRS, you can safely assume they are trying to scam you out of your money. The same holds true for an email or text. (Note that if you have contacted the IRS yourself by phone about a specific problem they may then get back in touch with you by that method to help you or answer your questions.)

Scammers will do whatever they can to make you afraid – and since the tax system is inherently intimidating, that is a prime target. They’ll threaten you with arrest, suspension of your driver license, or question your immigration status if you don’t pay immediately. But the IRS doesn’t have the authority to revoke your license or change your immigration status, and an arrest for large-scale and deliberate tax evasion would be a long and complicated process. Believe me, if you were going to be arrested for tax fraud, you’d know about it years in advance.

Once they know you’re afraid, they’ll demand money immediately. They won’t give you a chance to think, make a phone call, or do a little research. Their scam depends on you acting in a panic. They’ll ask for payment in crypto or gift cards, or maybe a wire transfer.

Even if you know you owe money to the IRS, don’t let yourself be scammed. The IRS assigns overdue tax debts to private debt collection agencies and only uses CBE Group, Coast Professional, and ConServe. And these agencies would only ask for payment made out to the U.S. Treasury.

If you’re unsure if you owe money to the IRS, you can check your tax account by visiting: If you believe that you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam, contact the PCSO non-emergency line at 727-582-6200.

Posted by Laura Sullivan Monday, March 11, 2024 8:05:00 AM

Beware of Romance Scams 

As Valentine's Day approaches, love is in the air. But don't let Cupid rob you of your common sense – or let scammers take advantage of your affections. Romance scams are a common problem and can cost victims thousands of dollars.

In a romance scam, a criminal individual or syndicate creates a fake identity of an appealing person and makes a profile on social media or on a dating site. Generally they steal photos from an actual person, and may even use details of a real person's life, too. The criminal will then approach someone on social media, or try to match with them on a dating app. From there, they will do everything possible to convince the victim that they have a connection. Eventually, when the victim believes they have fallen in love, the scammer will ask for money.

These criminals put a lot of work into scamming people. They'll pretend to care, and talk about building a life together, and yet they always have an excuse why they can't meet. Many of them pretend to be members of the military, which both gives them an air of respectability and honor, and provides an excuse about why they are not in the country. Scammers are clever manipulators. They'll remember birthdays, they may even send flowers – using some other victim's money – to create an impression of love and devotion.

Sometimes the scam culminates in a simple request for money, but sometimes their plans are even more insidious. Victims have become unwitting pawns in money laundering schemes. Our Economic Crimes Unit found one woman who had funneled more than $1,000,000 of dirty money for these scammers, picking up cash and buying vehicles that she would deliver to some unknown person. She thought she was just helping the man she loved, but in reality she was conspiring with a scammer. Even when our detectives told her that the account was fake and the person she thought she loved wasn't real, she didn't believe it.

If someone approaches you online, be cautious. Limit the amount of information you give them, and find out all you can about them. Is their story consistent or does it change? Do they “love bomb” you, showering you with over-the-top emotion too soon? And most importantly, are they willing to meet? Long distance relationships sometimes work, but even then you should insist on video calls or other ways to confirm that the person is who they claim to be. They say love is blind, but don’t shut your eyes to the truth. You may be in love with someone who doesn’t actually exist, a con artist creating a fake identity to get your money.

In fact, be careful every time someone asks you for money. There are so many scams out there – someone will call pretending to be a law enforcement officer and say you'll be arrested for a warrant unless you pay with bitcoin or gift cards. Or you might get a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild who is in legal trouble and needs you to wire money to them. Scammers try to use your emotions against you to force you to make an unwise decision – whether that emotion is love or fear. Whenever anyone asks you for money take a breath, slow down, and take time to figure out if it's on the up and up.

If you believe someone may be trying to scam you, contact the PCSO at our non-emergency number, 582-6200. If you've already given someone money, don't be embarrassed to come forward. We may be able to recover your money, and keep more people from falling victim to a romance scammer.

Posted by Laura Sullivan Thursday, February 8, 2024 2:00:00 PM

Resolve to Lead the Way to Personal Safety 

If you’ve been on our website, read any of our brochures, or received any correspondence from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) you know that our tagline is “Leading the Way for a Safer Pinellas.” We may be at the forefront, but the citizens of Pinellas County are close by our side. As you make New Year’s resolutions for your health, finances, and personal life, remember to resolve to take steps to reduce the chance of becoming a victim of crime.

We talk a lot about ways to keep yourself safe from scammers who want to part you from your hard-earned money. And we tell you over and over to lock your car doors to prevent auto burglaries and thefts. But your personal safety is even more important than these property crimes. Statistically, Pinellas County is a very safe place and your odds of being personally attacked by a stranger are extremely low. But when you are taking a walk, shopping, in a parking garage, or any of the public places where you could be a victim of a personal attack, you need to reduce your odds of being seen as a target.

The first component of personal safety is awareness. Far too many people move through life with their eyes glued to their phone. When you’re out in the world you should keep your attention on the world around you. Criminals planning to hurt or rob someone are searching for an easy target and will take advantage of your distraction. If you’re deep in what your favorite influencer posted on Instagram you aren’t likely to see the criminal lurking in the shadows. They will prey on your distraction. Beyond that, think about the impression you convey. Are you standing up straight, looking at passers-by, appearing purposeful and confident? If so, you’re less likely to be targeted.

Another important part of maintaining your personal safety is to avoid putting yourself in risky situations in the first place. When you park your car, look for good lighting and security cameras, and don’t park in an isolated area. Plan your ATM use for daylight hours. Walk with a friend. Of course you can’t always avoid riskier situations – sometimes you’ll find yourself alone in a parking garage or walking after dark. But when you do find yourself in these potentially less-safe situations, you need to be cognizant of the risk and try to compensate with awareness and preparedness.

If anything doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to act. It is better to be wrong and safe. If someone approaches you and makes you feel uncomfortable, shout at them to go away. Don’t be shy or worry about looking foolish – yell, scream, and draw attention to the situation. Criminals don’t like attention and will usually retreat if they have an audience or think people will peek out of their windows to investigate. You can also call 911 if a person or situation makes you feel unsafe.

I’m often asked about what to carry for protection. Your choice to carry a weapon or deterrent is a personal one. Pepper spray could be a good option. Some people carry a walking stick or even a golf club if they walk after dark to look like less of a target. Florida’s new permitless carry law means that most people can carry a concealed weapon, but I highly recommend that you learn to be proficient with anything you are carrying. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office offers a free carry concealed weapons (CCW) competency class – visit our website to find out more.

Our members dedicate themselves to keeping you as safe as possible, but you have to do your part too. The resolutions you make now can keep you safer throughout the year.

Posted by Laura Sullivan Monday, January 8, 2024 7:40:00 AM

PCSO Year in Review 

As the year comes to a close I want to take a moment to look back on 2023 at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO). We had some trying times, but overall 2023 has been a year of progress and success.

Our Cold Case Unit has had a great year, using a combination of good, old-fashioned police work combined with cutting edge technology to solve cases. A deep dive into the 1987 homicide of an elderly woman led to new DNA analysis of evidence found at the scene. From there, we made use of the new field of genetic genealogy to search DNA databases and generations-old family records for a lead to the person who matched that DNA. A lot of hard work and a little luck led to the February 2023 arrest of a suspect in Mississippi.

Law enforcement can’t work without the support and cooperation of the community. PCSO has been searching for missing person Robert Helphrey since he vanished in 2006. But despite our best efforts, it took a partnership with Sunshine State Sonar and Recon Dive Recovery, independent volunteer groups who dedicate their free time to searching Florida waterways for missing persons. In collaboration with our Cold Case Unit, they finally located Helphrey’s missing vehicle, with his remains inside, in April 2023. His grieving family finally has closure.

We had a brush with tragedy in March 2023 when K-9 Corporal Matt Aitken was ambushed and shot three times by a suspect he and K-9 partner Taco were tracking. As Taco jumped on the suspect to save his handler, Sergeant Jake Viano, who was following Aitken on the track, confronted and shot the suspect. Aitken is now on the road to a full recovery.

This has been the Year of the Bloodhounds. In 2022, when we were unable to find the cold trail of the suspect responsible for Deputy Michael Hartwick’s death, we called in bloodhounds from a neighboring county. That made me realize we need bloodhounds of our own. Since January we’ve watched ours grow from little wrinkled puppies to the mighty trackers they are today. Now that they are on the street their main job will be to find missing people – children or the elderly who have wandered away. Unlike most bloodhounds, ours have been taught obedience, so instead of jumping up on a scared child or frail elder they’ll quietly sit still to alert their handler.

In August 2023 we were faced with the possibility of a direct hit from the Category 4 Hurricane Idalia. Though its path turned to the north, Pinellas County got significant storm surge flooding. As soon as the storm passed PCSO sprang into action, launching our helicopter and deploying our high water rescue vehicles and every available deputy to help those in danger. Though there was considerable destruction of property, we were fortunate to have no loss of life in Pinellas. Hurricane Idalia was another reminder that we must always be prepared.

PCSO has been prominent in both local and national media this year. Our social media reach has expanded exponentially, and the print and television media have picked up on many of our positive stories. Prominent among them was the exciting moment when two of our marine deputies stopped a high-speed runaway boat by leaping onto it. It was a scene straight out of a movie, and just one small example of the great work our brave and highly trained members do.

This year, to let even more people know about what we do, we launched 56: A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Podcast, to great success. Our guests have varied from Cold Case to K-9, from Forensics to the Jail. I encourage you to follow us on social media, and listen to our podcast. I look forward to 2024 and another year of leading the way for a safer Pinellas.

Posted by Verliz Williams Friday, December 1, 2023 12:01:00 PM

Ride And Run With The Stars 

Join us on Saturday, December 2nd at Fort De Soto Park for Ride And Run With The Stars, the Tampa Bay Area’s largest law enforcement-organized fundraiser. For thirty years the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) has been organizing this fun family day that helps kids in need have a happy holiday season.

You and your family can have a morning of biking, running, walking, and fun while helping others. There are races for all ages and abilities, including a 5K chipped race, a 1-mile fun run, walk, or skate, a 25-mile bike ride, and a 10K family bike ride. When you register for the races you’ll get a long-sleeved event shirt as well as food and giveaways. Prizes are awarded in the chipped 5K race for the best times in different age groups. High quality bicycles are among the prizes.

You’ll also get to meet many members of the PCSO and learn more about our agency. We’ll have some of our specialized vehicles on display, and a K-9 handler will be out to give a demonstration of his four-legged partner’s abilities. As a special treat, Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive in a PCSO helicopter to meet the kids and hear all their Christmas wishes. Afterward, every child will get a special treat.

One of the highlights of each year’s Ride And Run With The Stars is the silent auction. Last year we had kayaks, luxury gift baskets, wine and liquor assortments, family excursions, romantic getaways, golf packages, and much more, all donated by local businesses. Of course, all funds raised by the auction go toward helping families in need. As we get closer to the event, you will be able to register online for the silent auction and get a preview of the exciting things to bid on. All bidding is done online, and there are exclusive raffles for those attending the event in person.

Money raised at Ride And Run With The Stars is used for the Christmas Sharing Project. Throughout the year, our deputies identify families that are in need because of economic hardship or who have been victimized by crime. After the event, PCSO members shop for the sponsored families. The kids ask for toys, books, bikes, and skateboards, but the funds also help with much-needed everyday things like school clothes, bedding, or diapers. Every little bit helps for families in need.

Last year Ride And Run With The Stars raised more than $85,000 to help 289 families and a total of 741 children. Civilian members and deputies from all around the agency gathered on a special shopping day to fulfill the kids’ wish lists. Even more children and families were helped when they were adopted by corporate or individual sponsors. Help us make this year even better. Join us for Ride And Run With The Stars and have fun for a good cause.

Registration is now open. You can visit for more information.

Posted by Verliz Williams Monday, November 6, 2023 9:14:00 AM

October is Crime Prevention Month 

October is National Crime Prevention Month, and I have one simple message for you that could dramatically reduce the amount of crime in Pinellas County, and the number of illegal firearms in the hands of criminals: lock your car doors. If you follow us on social media or listen to our podcast you know that this is one of the main messages we consistently try to drive home. It is such a simple thing to do, and yet one of the most common crimes today is vehicle burglary of unlocked vehicles.

If you’re lucky, a burglary of your unlocked vehicle might only net the bad guy a handful of quarters and your spare sunglasses. But all too often people leave valuables in their vehicles overnight. You’d be surprised at the things people leave in their unlocked vehicles: wallets, house keys, cash. If your vehicle is unlocked, a criminal may have access to your garage door opener which could let them steal your bikes, tools, or even enter your home.

Many people carry a firearm for personal protection, either on their person or in their vehicle. If you do so, never leave your firearm in your vehicle. Whether it is locked or unlocked, the risk of letting one more firearm out on the street is just too high. Do you want your gun to be used in the commission of a crime, or even turned on you or your family? You need to always secure your firearms – and your vehicle is not secure.

Some worry that if they lock their vehicle, it will just force the burglar to break the window to gain entry. This may sometimes happen but remember that most criminals prefer low-hanging fruit. The usual method for vehicle burglaries is for several youths to drive through a neighborhood, often in a stolen car, and hit as many houses as possible in a short period of time. They’ll move from house to house, checking car doors and taking whatever they can as quickly as they can before moving on to a new neighborhood. If you leave a spare key or if they have other means of starting the car, they might steal your vehicle too. Locking your car door isn’t a guarantee that you won’t be a victim, but it does make it much more likely that the criminal will move on to an easier target. If you don’t leave valuables, purses, or bags in plain sight, there will be nothing to tempt them.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has many methods to combat the explosion of auto burglaries. At the forefront is an information campaign like this one, in print and on social media, to remind people of best practices. You may even find a flyer inside your car someday advising you to keep your doors locked. Sometimes in areas that are targets of repeat burglaries our deputies will check your car door as a public service. You may be shocked to find that someone could access your vehicle, but just be glad it was a deputy and not a bad guy.

When we get a report of vehicle burglaries we can respond with deputies, a K-9 to track the suspect, and even our helicopter that can see the heat signature of a person even on the darkest night. We also have the Habitual Offender Monitoring Unit (HOME) with detectives dedicated to keeping tabs on youth with extensive criminal records, most of which involve auto burglaries and auto theft. We’re doing everything we can to reduce crime, but you need to do your part too. During National Crime Prevention Month and throughout the year, think about the simple things you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

Posted by Verliz Williams Friday, October 6, 2023 3:32:00 PM

Make the Safety of Young Pedestrians a Priority 

School is back in session and the roads – and sidewalks – are busier. Make sure you allow extra time on your morning commute as you drive through school zones and watch out for pedestrians. We must do everything we can to keep children safe and you can do your part by brushing up on traffic laws related school busses, school zones, and pedestrians.

Be aware of designated school zones – they will be clearly marked with signage and flashing lights alerting drivers. The speed limit in most local school zones is 15 miles per hour. The slow-speed zone is enforced half an hour before students are expected to arrive at school. Remember, this doesn’t just mean the official start of classes, but may be earlier for breakfast service. The school zone may be active for up to half an hour after class begins. In the afternoon, the school zone is active until 30 minutes after students are released. With elementary, middle, and high schools all starting and ending at different times, you may encounter several different school zones in your daily travels. The fine for speeding in a school zone is double that of speeding in most other areas.

Also remember that you can’t have your cell phone in your hand at all in a school zone – not only is it unsafe, but it is also illegal. This applies to calls, texts, and any other hands-on use of your phone, including navigation. If you must use a device in a school zone, it needs to be completely hands-free. Your full attention needs to be on the road and on pedestrians.

Crossing guards are stationed near schools as well as at intersections on the routes where children walk or bike to school. Crossing guards enter the crosswalk when it is safe to do so and ensure that children only cross the road when all traffic has stopped. Be alert for the crossing guard’s sign and whistle, and follow their directions. They are considered a traffic control device, the same as a stop sign, and their instructions should be followed for the safety of young pedestrians.

If you would like a rewarding part-time job helping to keep children safe, consider becoming a school crossing guard. You will receive uniforms, equipment, and training, and make $22 an hour. Contact Human Resources at 727-582-6208 for more information.

Along with pedestrians, there are many more school busses on the roads. The rules about when to stop for a school bus may seem confusing but they are actually simple. When you are driving behind a bus you must always stop when the bus activates its flashing red lights and displays its STOP signal, no matter how many lanes there are. However, if you are driving in the opposite, oncoming lanes, whether or not you stop depends on the median. If there is a raised median, physical barrier, or unpaved space at least five feet wide between lane directions you do not have to stop. Painted lines and pavement markings are not considered barriers. If that barrier is not there, oncoming traffic must stop. Failure to stop for a school bus carries a hefty fine and repeat offenses can result in a driver’s license suspension.


Posted by Verliz Williams Monday, September 11, 2023 7:33:00 AM
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