Parents driving off before students are completely out of the car.
Students' backpacks and jackets getting caught on vehicles as unsuspecting parents drive away.
School personnel and crossing guards blowing whistles and banging on car windows to get drivers' attention.
Welcome to the school car loop in the age of the cellphone.
"We're seen an increase in incidents in the parent driveways because parents are busy on the cellphone," said Jerry Graziose, Broward County School District's safety director and chief fire official. "We've had them hit their own children. We never had accidents in the parent driveways until recently."
Over the past few years, the district has been posting signs at schools where parents drop off and pick up their children, warning them not to talk on their phones.
Recently, officials have begun adding others signs warning people not to text while driving.
"When parents are picking up and dropping off their kids, I need the parents' 100 percent attention," Graziose said. "They can't be doing something else."
For the past three years, state Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, has introduced legislation that would ban drivers from using cellphones while in a school zone. Violators would face a steep fine.
But the bills never have passed. This year, the bill died in the transportation committee.
Bullard was unavailable for comment.
At least 32 states have some form of law that restricts cellphone use, including texting, while driving. But not Florida.
Texas, Illinois and Arkansas specifically ban driving and using cellphones in school zones.
While the Palm Beach County School District has no policy on cellphone use in car loops, some schools have put up signs reminding parents that cellphones aren't allowed in the drop-off/pick-up area.
Addison Mizner Elementary School in Boca Raton has had the signs for years, Principal Donna Binninger said.
"Many elementary schools do that," she said. "That's really to keep the focus on the kids. There are so many opportunities for distraction, especially large schools when so many kids are out there."
She can't recall any mishaps occurring in the car loop because of cellphones, but that's because most parents comply with the no-phone rule, she said.
Reminders to put away cellphones are put in school newsletters at Hagen Road Elementary, west of Boynton Beach, Principal Richard Hughes said.. But the school decided against putting up signs.
"It's hard to enforce," he said. "The school police won't give them a ticket for cellphone use. … It's up to the Florida Legislature. They should just ban cellphone use while driving."
It has become enough of an issue that the Palm Beach County Safe Routes to Schools Coalition, which focuses on making sure students can walk and bike to school safely, plans to address it, said Angela Usher, a school district planner and coalition member.
"We have not started working on anything to prohibit it, but it is a concern," she said.
Graziose is hoping the state bans cellphone use in school zones and uses the revenue from fines to pay for crossing guards.
Only the force of law, he believes, will make some parents finally hang up their phones.
"My school staff in parents' driveways says parents are not paying attention," he said. "We have to resort to putting signs up because there are no laws to help us."
Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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