Law enforcement reminds drivers of safety around school zones and buses as classes return
BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -As the start of a new school year begins, drivers should be ready to pay attention, and exercise patience and caution on school bus routes and school zones.
According to statistics, as many as 100 school children are injured every year in accidents that occur inside school zones.
Brazos County Deputy Constable, Josh Hearen, gives suggestions on how drivers can properly navigate through a school zone.
“If you could give yourself a little bit of extra time, anticipate that school zone in the morning, anticipate that extra traffic,” said Hearen.
Constable Hearen says that parents and guardians dropping off or picking up children should be extra cautious as well.
“As a parent of a school child when you come to the school to pick up a child follow the directions of the school, go where they ask you to go,” said Hearen. “There‘s a reason they’re asking you to do it and it’s for the safe movement and safety of the children and everybody involved.”
Officials with the Bryan Independent School District are urging drivers to use extra caution around school buses on Brazos County roads.
According to a 2019 survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), school buses are passed illegally more than 95,000 times a day. Due to the pandemic, the NASDPTS did not conduct surveys in 2020 or 2021.
More than 9,000 stop-arm violations happen in Texas daily, including in the Brazos Valley.
Bryan ISD Director of Transportation Warren Lanphier says at the beginning of the new school year students and bus drivers are working to become more familiar with a new routine.
“We have a lot of new students, kindergarten, pre-k kids, first time on the school buses. This year we have new drivers, first-time driving buses so we ask that drivers be patient when they see our buses out on the road,” said Lanphier. “When they see the yellow lights come on and the red lights after that, they stop, wait for those buses and give them the time that they need to load the kids so we can all get to school and work safely.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety offers these tips for the new school year.
1. Give students extra room and don’t assume they are paying attention to traffic. Students are frequently distracted by mobile devices or listening on electronic devices and may not be paying attention to their surroundings.
2. Don’t block a crosswalk when stopped at a red light or stop sign.
3. Follow the directions of school crossing guards.
4. Watch for children on bicycles traveling to and from schools.
5. Reduce your speed when you spot a school bus and know children may unexpectedly step into the road without checking for oncoming traffic.
6. Be careful around railroad crossings. School buses are legally required to stop at them.
7. Know laws regarding school buses. According to Texas law, if a bus has alternating flashing red signals visible from the front or rear, drivers MUST stop before reaching the bus. Drivers can only proceed if the flashing lights are no longer activated, the driver signals you to proceed or the bus has resumed driving. Approaching drivers do NOT have to stop for a school bus that is operating a visual signal if the road is separated by a physical barrier or an intervening space. If a highway is only divided by a left-turn lane, it is not considered divided and drivers must stop for school buses.
8. Drivers who illegally pass a school bus face fines of up to $1,250 for the first offense. For people convicted of the offense more than once, the law allows for the person’s driver’s license to be suspended for up to six months. A ticket for this offense cannot be dismissed through defensive driving. Criminal charges are possible if a driver causes someone serious bodily injury.
9. Always obey speed limits and traffic laws in school zones.
10. Remember, texting while driving is illegal in Texas.
When do you have to stop for school buses?
Drivers are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its yellow and or red lights flashing and STOP arms extended. The only exception is on a divided highway with a raised divider or median. On a two-lane street, all drivers moving in either direction on a two-way street must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the school bus stop arm is no longer activated.
On a multi-lane street or highway( SH6, SH21, SH30, SH 47, etc) with a paved median. All drivers moving in either direction must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.
On a divided highway or highway( SH6, SH21, SH30, SH 47, etc) traffic approaching an oncoming school bus does not need to stop if there is a raised barrier such as a concrete divider or at least five feet of unpaved space separating the lanes of traffic. However, these motorists should slow down and watch for students loading or unloading from the bus.
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