Summer is almost over, and the new school year is set to begin next week in Florence County. On Monday morning, school buses will be rolling, school speed zone lights will be flashing and the Florence County Sheriff’s Office will be out to enforce the laws designed to keep children safe as they travel to and from school.

The Florence County Sheriff’s Office urges motorists to be on the lookout for children, buses and school zone traffic as we transition from casual summer to school- time activities.

School speed zones, designated by yellow flashing lights, will be heavily patrolled to enforce the reduced speed limit at and near schools. We strongly urge everyone to obey those lower school speed zone limits or expect to receive a ticket. The Florence County Sheriff’s Office will observe a zero tolerance for speeding inside school zones.

In addition, South Carolina law requires motorists to stop for a stopped school bus displaying its flashing lights and as children get on and off. Under S.C. Code Section 56-5-2770, first-offense failure to stop for a stopped school bus can result in a fine of not less than $500 or imprisonment of up to 30 days. For a second or subsequent offense, the penalty increases to between $2,000 and $5,000 and between 30 and 60 days in jail.

However, the driver of a vehicle need not stop when meeting a stopped school bus while traveling in the opposite direction on a multi-lane roadway. A multi-lane roadway is defined as a highway with four or more lanes, with at least two traffic lanes for each direction.

Also, please pay attention to children walking on the side of the road, at bus stops and as they cross the road, and reduce your speed in those areas. Small children tend to be impulsive in their actions, and motorists should be on particular lookout for them near the roadway.

Recent legislation passed by the South Carolina General Assembly created a program for school buses to be equipped with video cameras to catch motorists who disregard school bus stop signs and for violators to be prosecuted based on the video. Florence County schools are part of that program. Please carefully observe these school bus stop signs and allow our children to get to get on and off the buses safely.

Beginning next Monday, motorists can expect to encounter a much higher volume of school-related traffic and delays at traffic lights and intersections in the hours before and after school. Try to leave home a little earlier, be a little more patient and allow a little more time than usual until normal traffic volume returns. We want all of our children to make it safely both to and from school all year long.

SHERIFF WILLIAM C. BARNES

Florence County

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