TxDOT: 'Be safe, drive smart' as children head back to school

Special to the Bulletin
Texas Department of Transportation

AUSTIN – Despite much lower traffic levels around Texas schools due to the pandemic, there were still hundreds of crashes in school zones last year. So as millions of Texas students return to class, the Texas Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to watch out for kids walking and biking to school to keep everyone safe.

Unfortunately, crashes in school zones can and do happen. There were 11 people seriously injured in school zone crashes in 2020, along with 1,214 crashes involving school buses across the state.

The most common causes for these crashes in school zones are failure to control speed, driver inattention, failure to yield the right of way at a stop sign and failure to yield the right of way at a private driveway.

TxDOT is urging drivers to slow down, stay alert and follow all traffic laws to keep children safe and avoid costly fines and tickets. We all have a responsibility to keep children safe on their way to and from school.

Tips for driving in school zones

• Be aware that traffic patterns around schools may have changed since the last school year, and expect more vehicles on the road as many students will be returning for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

• Stay alert and put your phone away. Using a handheld electronic device while driving in an active school zone is against the law.

• Always obey school zone speed limit signs. Remember, traffic fines increase in school zones.

• Drop off and pick up your children in your school’s designated areas, not the middle of the street.

• Keep an eye on children gathered at bus stops.

• Watch for children who might dart across the street or between vehicles.

Tips for Drivers Sharing the Road with School Buses

• Follow at a safe distance, keeping in mind that school buses make frequent stops.

• Always remain alert for children around buses and remember that they may not always look for vehicles before crossing the street.

• Stop for flashing red lights or a stop sign on a school bus, regardless of which direction you're headed. Continue your trip once the bus has moved, the flashing lights stop flashing or the bus driver signals it's okay to pass.

• Violations can lead to a fine of up to $1,250 for a first offense.

Tips for children walking or biking to school

• Always use sidewalks. If there’s not a sidewalk, walk on the left side of the street facing traffic.

• Cross the street at intersections or marked crosswalks. Look left, right and left again before proceeding.

• Always obey crossing guards.

• Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. Never assume a driver sees you.

• Look for traffic when stepping off a bus or from behind parked vehicles.

• Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.

• Don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.

• Follow all traffic rules, signs and signals.     

“Be Safe. Drive Smart.” is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel such as wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit, never texting and driving and never driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Nov. 7, 2000 was the last deathless day on Texas roadways.

#EndTheStreakTX asks all Texans to commit to driving safely to help end the streak of daily deaths.