AUSTIN – As parents, students and drivers embark on the new school year, the Texas Department of Public Safety cautions Texans to watch for children who are walking to and from school or waiting for buses.
Drivers should be especially alert and careful around school buses – which make frequent stops – and always follow traffic laws regarding school buses and school zones. The start of the school year also generates an increase in overall traffic in many areas – an additional reason to make safe driving a priority.
“As school districts across Texas start classes in the coming days and weeks, drivers should slow down and be alert when school children and buses are present,” said Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw. “Obey school zone speed limits and stop for school buses when required. Individuals who disregard the law and illegally pass stopped school buses needlessly put children in harm’s way – and face significant traffic fines.”
The moments when students are entering or exiting a bus can be one of the most dangerous times during a child’s trip on a school bus. Accordingly, DPS urges drivers to slow down and pay close attention in school zones, since children may unexpectedly step into a roadway without checking for oncoming traffic.
State law requires that approaching drivers stop when a bus is stopped and operating a visual signal – either red flashing lights or a stop sign. Drivers should not proceed until the school bus resumes motion; the driver is signaled by the bus driver to proceed; or the visual signal is no longer activated. A driver does not have to stop for a school bus that is operating a visual signal if it is on a highway with roadways separated by an intervening space or physical barrier. (If a highway is divided only by a left-turning lane, the roadways are not considered separated, and drivers must stop for school buses.)
As a reminder, school buses, by law, must stop at all railroad crossings.
Drivers who illegally pass school buses face fines up to $1,250 for the first offense, and potential criminal charges if they cause serious bodily injury to another. For individuals convicted of this offense more than once, the law allows the individual’s driver license to be suspended for up to six months. A ticket for illegally passing a school bus cannot be dismissed through defensive driving.