With school back in session, there are more than 500 buses that transport approximately 22,000 students across Austin’s 390 bus routes. Austin school police issued more than 6,600 citations to drivers who sped past or illegally went around stopped school buses. Additionally, there were 663 car crashes in Texas school zones last year, which resulted in 21 serious injuries, but (luckily) no deaths. Typically, these crashes are caused by:
- Drivers who fail to reduce speeds
- Distracted Driving
- Drivers who fail to give the right of way
- Drivers who illegally pass school buses
That said, parents need to be even more vigilant this year to keep children safe in Austin school zones by teaching students the following:
- Stand at least 10 feet (five big steps) away from the road
- Wait until the school bus comes to a complete stop and the driver signals it’s okay to enter the bus
- Never walk behind the school bus
- Always stay in the direct line of sight of the bus driver
- Wait for the bus driver’s signal to cross any streets
- If something falls near the school bus, never pick it up. Instead, ask the bus driver for assistance
- Check both ways before stepping off the bus and crossing the street. If possible, cross at intersections and crosswalk areas
What Can Drivers Do to Make Austin School Zones Safer?
While the school year can make things more frustrating for drivers with the extra traffic and school zone speeds, it is important to keep calm while driving and obey school zone traffic laws. Doing so will help reduce the likelihood of causing a pedestrian accident with a child, which is something no driver wants on their conscience. The Texas Department of Transportation recommends drivers do the following to keep children safe in school zones:
- Put away cell phones, as it is illegal to engage in any cell phone activity within school zones
- Obey school zone speed limits (traffic fines can double in these areas)
- Do not drop children off in the middle of the street. Instead, drop off and pick up children in the school’s designated areas
- Remain alert when children are gathered at bus stops and reduce speed
Austin has recently started a program to increase enforcement for drivers who illegally pass school buses. Now, buses are equipped with mounted cameras that catch unsafe drivers around them. The cameras start recording when a school bus stops and, should a driver pass a stopped school bus and put children at risk, the Austin Police Department issues them a $300 ticket.
Aaron Allison is an Austin personal injury attorney that fights for those injured in pedestrian accidents. Our law firm opened in 1978 and has worked hard to help injured victims and grieving family members in the Austin community.