LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — Less than one week into the school year, a dash camera at the intersection of 23rd Street and Yvonne Street in Lehigh Acres caught video of multiple cars passing a stopped school bus, stirring up concern.
According to Rob Spicker, Lee County Public Schools spokesperson, the Florida Department of Education surveys all bus drivers each year on a chosen day of how many times other cars illegally passed their school bus. In 2023, the Florida Department of Education recorded 834 illegal passes on that surveyed day in Lee County alone.
“This is at least 834 students, but let’s triple that number and assume that three of them are getting off at every stop,” said Spicker. “You’re talking about, you know, 2,500 students whose lives are at risk that single day because a driver will pass that bus when its stop arm was out.”
Lee County is near the top of the list for the entire state. The survey found Collier County recorded 334 illegal passes on one of these specific days, and Charlotte County recorded 83.
“You would assume that a bus that is stopped just off the roadway, with its red lights flashing, and stop arm out is enough of a warning to a car that there are children about to get off of that bus,” said Spicker.
Fox 4 spoke with a woman who is a former bus driver. She did not want to identify herself but said parents are also responsible for teaching their children proper bus safety.
“I mean safety is the first thing for the children,” said the Lehigh Acres resident and former bus driver. “We need to recognize that school is back, we just have to make sure that we’re looking out for the little ones, and making sure that they’re safe.”
Spicker tells Fox 4 the school district has launched a road safety awareness campaign called “Walk safe, Drive safe, Bike Safe,” in hopes to inform their students and the public.
“It does take all of us to keep students safe,” said Spicker.
The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Division reminds drivers it’s a minimum fine of $165 for drivers who illegally pass a school bus, with at least four points on a driver’s license.