As Texas children begin to head back to school, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is reminding all drivers to watch out for children walking to and from school or waiting for school buses. Drivers must also obey all traffic laws related to school buses and active school zones.
“As the new school year opens, I urge drivers to do their part in keeping youngsters safe by obeying school zone speed limits and stopping for school buses,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “DPS will not tolerate individuals who disregard the law and illegally pass stopped school buses.”
One of the most dangerous times of a student’s trip on a school bus is when they are entering or exiting the bus. Drivers are cautioned to slow down and pay attention in school zones since children may not be looking for oncoming traffic when they step into a roadway.
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 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 separated, and drivers must stop for school buses.)
Beginning Sept. 1, drivers who illegally pass school buses will now face higher fines. The maximum fine for a first offense will increase from $1,000 to $1,250. For drivers convicted of this offense more than once, the law already allows DPS to suspend the driver license for up to six months. (A ticket for illegally passing a school bus cannot be dismissed through defensive driving.)