Editor’s note: In light of the recent dangerous driving near school buses that has happened in the last couple of weeks across the nation, we are rerunning articles from the beginning of the school year as a means to remind our drivers what is expected of them near our school children.

AUSTIN – As the new school year begins, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) cautions Texans to slow down in school zones, and to be aware of children walking to and from school or waiting for buses. Drivers should be especially alert and careful around school buses – which make frequent stops – and always follow traffic laws regarding school buses and school zones. The start of the school year also generates an increase in overall traffic in many areas, and drivers should take extra precautions.

“With school districts across Texas returning to classes in the coming weeks, DPS is urging drivers to slow down and be alert in school zones and wherever children are present,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Motorists who disregard the law and illegally pass stopped school buses put our schoolchildren in harm’s way – and that reckless and irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated by DPS.”

The moments when students are entering or exiting the bus can be one of the most dangerous times during a child’s trip on a school bus. Accordingly, DPS reminds drivers to reduce speed and be aware that children may unexpectedly step into a roadway without checking for oncoming traffic.

State law requires that 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. Approaching drivers do not have to stop for a school bus that is operating a visual signal if the roadway is separated by a physical barrier or an intervening space. (If a highway is divided only by a left-turning lane, the roadways are not considered separated, and drivers must stop for school buses.)

As a reminder, school buses, by law, must stop at all railroad crossings.

Drivers who illegally pass school buses face fines up to $1,250 for the first offense. For individuals convicted of this offense more than once, the law allows the individual’s driver license to be suspended for up to six months. (A ticket for illegally passing a school bus cannot be dismissed through defensive driving.) Additionally, this offense could potentially include criminal charges if they cause serious bodily injury to another.

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