School supplies are out in force at Wal-Mart, Target, and office supply stores across the Dallas / Fort Worth area. That means it’s almost time for our kids to return to the classroom. In the next two weeks the familiar flashing light marking school zones will renew its warning and traffic will be interspersed with school buses for each of the independent school districts. It’s time to revisit Texas laws concerning both school zones and driving near stopped buses.
Driving in School Zones:
Once school starts, students will be walking or riding bikes to school while others will arrive in cars and on buses. They’ll be carrying backpacks loaded with new school supplies and lunch boxes. Some will be excited about seeing their friends and others not so thrilled about homework and projects.
The flashing lights and signs indicating you’re entering a school zone mean slow down and watch out for kids who may not be watching for you. Texas laws governing school zones allow municipalities and counties to set speed limits for school zones.
- School zone speeds in the D/FW area are usually 20 mph when in the city limits
- For highway areas that are more rural settings, school zone speeds may 35 mph or slower
- Speed limits for school zones may be different in your area
Whatever the school zone speed limit is, abide by it and watch for kids darting unexpectedly across the road. Area police will be out in force to “remind” everyone to slow down. Speeding fines in a school zone vary depending on the area ranging from $204 to $326 for 1 to 30 mph above the posted limit. Court cost are also more for speeding in a school zone so save yourself some money and drive the limit.
School zones are cell-free zones, so remember to hang up before entering one. Avoid texting or talking and driving and you’ll avoid that expense too.
Driving Near School Buses: Do you know what to do when a school bus stops? Texas state laws are pretty clear on what is expected of drivers approaching a stopped school bus.
- All drivers on a highway, when approaching from either direction a school bus stopped on the highway to receive or discharge a student shall stop before reaching the school bus when the bus is operating a visual signal… (the red lights are flashing and/or the stop sign on the left side is extended)
- Drivers may not proceed until
- The school bus resumes motion
- The operator (driver) is signaled by the bus driver to proceed
- The visual signal is no longer actuated
- An operator (driver) on a highway having separate roadways is not required to stop
- For a school bus that is on a different roadway or
- In a controlled – access highway, for a school bus that is stopped
- In a loading zone that is a part of or adjacent to the highway and
- Where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway
- For the purposes of this section
- A highway is considered to have separate roadways only if the highway has roadways separated by an intervening space on which operation of vehicles is not permitted, a physical barrier or a clearly indicated dividing section constructed to impede vehicular traffic and
- A highway is not considered to have separate roadways if the highway has roadways separated only by a left turn lane
- Note in Texas traffic code, the term “highway” is defined to mean any public roadway including city streets
- Also note, school buses are required to stop at rail road crossings and drivers do not have to stop for a bus in this instance
Pass a school bus that’s stopped in Dallas and prepare to have your picture taken. Last year Dallas school buses added stop arm cameras to help “encourage” people from passing a stopped bus and potentially hitting a child. I’m grateful they did it and hope other area school districts follow suit.
Be more attentive, especially in the first two weeks when everyone is adjusting to school starting up again and let’s protect our kids! Share your comments, questions, and experiences with me on our Google + and Facebook pages or in the comments section of this blog.