Even if your family doesnít have children in public school, you are affected by the start of classes - which happens Monday for most Texas schools. Thatís especially the case if you drive a vehicle.

As Texas children prepare to head back to school, the Texas Department of Public Safety is reminding all motorists to be watching out for children walking to school, waiting for school buses and crossing streets. And even on streets that arenít close to a campus, motoristsí driving habits will be altered when buses are stopping to pick up or let off students.

Itís time for drivers to do some homework so they will be prepared to obey state law when schools resume.

Drivers must slow down, obey school zone speed limits and stop for school buses. Law enforcement officers from the local level to state troopers have no tolerance for drivers who pass stopped school buses when the appropriate lights are flashing or signal is activated.

According to the DPS, state law required approaching drives to stop when a school bus is stopped and operating a visual signal - red flashing lights or a stop sign. Drivers should not proceed until the school bus resumes motion, until the driver is signaled by the bus driver to proceed, or the visual signs are no longer activated.

A driver does not have to stop for a school bus if it is on a highway with roadways separated by an intervening space or physical barrier. But if the highway is divided by only a continuous left-turn lane, and the roadways are not separated, drivers must stop for school buses.

Drivers who do not stop for school buses face a fine of up to $1,000. If a driver is convicted of this offense more than once, driving privileges can be suspends for up to six months.

Motorists should also slow down while in school zones. Children may not be looking for oncoming traffic when they start to cross, so drivers must remain alert. The most dangerous time of a studentís journey on a school bus is when they are entering or exiting the bus.

The few seconds a driver might save by passing a stopped bus or speeding through a school zone will be lost if doing so causes an accident. Time, of course, will be meaningless if the loss is tragically greater.

Brownwood Bulletin