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As an East Texas, and Texas, driver, we need to step up our driving game now that school bells are ringing.

School began a few weeks ago for students in Athens and Big Sandy, last week it was Frankston, Gilmer, Palestine and Rusk's turn. It began this week for a lot of schools including Tyler, Longview, Lindale, Bullard and Overton. School will begin in places like Grand Saline and Van next week. We've written before about school bus safety and the law when it comes to flashing red lights on a school bus, when you are required to stop and when you don't have to. With pretty much all school aged kids back in school now we need to be on the lookout for them in and around school and bus stops.

Kids are very unpredictable and usually are not paying attention to what's happening around them because they are playing in their own world. As a driver we need to be more vigilant and watch out for kids walking and biking to and from school. Unfortunately accidents will happen even in school zones between those flashing yellow light zones. TxDOT says there were eleven people seriously injured in over four hundred school zone crashes in 2020, with another 1,214 accidents involving school buses across the state.

Dave Dugdale, flickr

As we make our way to our destination and we approach a school zone, either marked with just signs or flashing yellow lights too, we should slow down to the posted speed and follow and be alert for children.

TxDOT offers up the following tips when 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.

TxDOT provides us with the following tips when it comes to sharing the road with a school bus:

  • 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.

Staying alert, keeping off our cell phones and yielding to pedestrians will go a long way to keeping our children safe in school zones.

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