In conjunction with National School Bus Safety Week (Oct. 22-26), the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is urging Texans to comply with laws prohibiting drivers from passing stopped school buses. DPS Troopers across the state will be riding and/or following school buses to ensure that drivers are obeying school bus laws.
“DPS urges all motorists to make the safety of our schoolchildren a top priority year round, and to practice safe driving habits when traveling near school buses, in school zones and wherever children are present,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Drivers who disregard the law needlessly put children in danger, and that type of reckless behavior will not be tolerated by law enforcement.”
According to the Texas Education Agency, more than 43,000 school buses transport approximately 1.6 million Texas children every school day.
“A strong public education system starts with assuring our students safely travel to and from school,” said Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath. “The Texas Education Agency joins with the Texas Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement and staff members at public schools across our state in this shared commitment to keep our students safe during National School Bus Safety Week and throughout the school year.”
The moments when a student is entering or exiting the bus can be one of the most dangerous times of a child’s trip on the school bus. It is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped and operating a visual signal — either flashing red lights or a stop sign — and those who violate the law could face fines of up to $1,250. In an effort to increase the safety of student passengers, Troopers will also be patrolling areas where school buses are picking up or dropping off passengers.
In 2017 and year-to-date in 2018, Texas Highway Patrol Troopers have issued 1,394 citations and 685 warnings for passing a stopped school bus.
According to Texas statute, a driver — traveling in either direction on a roadway — must stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped and operating a visual signal. The driver may not proceed until one of the following occurs: the school bus resumes motion; the operator is signaled by the bus driver to proceed; or the visual signal is no longer activated.
If a road is divided only by a left-turning lane, drivers on both sides of the roadway must stop for school buses with alternating red flashing lights activated. However, if the lanes are separated by an intervening space or physical barrier, only motorists traveling in the same direction as the bus are required to stop.
(As a reminder, school buses, by law, must stop at all railroad crossings.)
Here are several safety measures drivers can take to help keep children safe:
- Be mindful of posted speed limits when driving in school zones and near buses.
- Slow down and watch for children congregating near bus stops.
- Be aware of student pedestrians and watch for children who may unexpectedly dart into the street without checking for traffic.
- Know and obey the traffic laws regarding school buses in Texas.