With the beginning of a school year this week, we want to remind drivers to use common sense and be alert when driving in neighborhoods and around schools. 

Last year, there were 765 traffic crashes  in Texas school zones, resulting in one death and 15 serious injuries. The most common causes for these crashes were failure to control speed, driver inattention, and failure to yield the right of way, when turning left to a private drive or at a stop sign.

In addition, last year there were 2,357 traffic crashes involving school buses in Texas, which resulted in five fatalities and 42 serious injuries. Speed and driver inattention also were the top factors in those crashes.

School buses are really hard to miss. They are big and bright yellow. And when they stop to pick up precious cargo, they pull out all the stops — yellow flashing lights followed by red flashing lights with extended red stop signs and stop arms.

Like we said, they’re hard to miss.

Yet, the laws regarding stopping for a school bus can often be confusing. 

In Texas, the law states that a driver must stop for flashing red lights on a school bus, regardless of which direction you are headed. Once the bus has moved, the flashing lights stop flashing or the bus driver signals it is okay to pass, you may proceed. Violations can lead to a fine of up to $1,250 for a first offense. The only exception is when there is a physical median present, it is then not required by law to stop for the school bus on the opposite side of the road. However, left turn lanes do not count as medians. 

For example, in Baytown a driver would have to stop for a student being dropped off on either side of Garth Road because there is no physical median present to separate the traffic.

School buses are a safe mode of transportation. The majority of injuries are caused because motorists do not use caution. 

Some safety tips for motorists include obey the posted speed limit, keep an eye on children gathered at bus stops and watch for children who might dart across the street to catch the bus. Also, be aware that fines double in school zones. 

School zone safety

Law enforcement officials are reminding drivers to use common sense and be alert when driving in neighborhoods and around schools. 

Most Baytown school zones have a posted speed of 20 mph, but the speed can vary in some zones. Drivers should pay attention to all posted speeds and follow any directives issued by police or crossing guards. Those who break the law can expect the fines to be steep. School zone speeding violations are Class C misdemeanors, with fines of up to $500.

Also, Texas law prohibits the use of cell phones by drivers navigating in a school zone, unless the phone is used with a hands-free device or while the car is stopped. Violations can lead to fines up to $1,250.

— David Bloom


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