Classes begin for students in the Marble Falls and Burnet school districts on Wednesday, Aug. 18, which means two fleets of buses will join an increased amount of traffic during rush hours with parents taking and picking up kids to and from school. School zone speed limits and restrictions also return.
“As the school year begins, let me take this opportunity to remind everyone to slow down in school zones and stop for school buses loading and unloading,” Burnet Consolidated Independent School District superintendent Keith McBurnett said in a statement. “Please also be patient the first few days of school as traffic is always heavier at the start of school, and everyone is learning the traffic patterns at each campus.”
Increased school traffic will be at its height from 7-9 a.m. and 2-4 p.m.
“(Drivers) should be prepared for … heavier-than-normal traffic around schools, especially during the first few weeks,” Granite Shoals Police Capt. Chris Decker said. “Commuters that don’t have kids, give yourself more time to get places and be patient while driving.”
In addition to local officials, the Texas Department of Transportation is urging drivers to be attentive and careful through its “Be Safe. Drive Smart” campaign. In 2020, 11 people were seriously injured in school zone crashes, according to a statement from the department. Across the state, there were 1,214 crashes involving school buses, even during a pandemic that closed many schools.
Common reasons for the crashes include failure to follow speed limits or to yield in school zones as well as distracted driving.
Tips for safe driving near school buses
In Texas, drivers must yield the right of way to school buses. Failure to do so can result in a fine from $500-$1,250 or higher depending on the scenario.
“Make sure (you) are watching for school buses and that when they have the flashing yellow lights, you are prepared to stop,” Decker said. “When they have red lights, do not pass them.”
When approaching a bus that is displaying flashing red lights, drivers from either direction, whether behind the bus or coming toward the bus, must stop and should not resume driving until the bus turns off its lights and the stop sign on its side has folded in.
If serious bodily injury is caused while driving past a stopped school bus, the driver faces a Class A misdemeanor.
School zone driving
School zone speed limits are 20 mph in Texas.
Drivers should stay alert and pay extra attention as school zones see increased pedestrian and bike traffic, Decker said. Speed limits must be followed at all times to ensure safety for students, crossing guards, and other drivers. Signals from crossing guards must also be followed.
“If you’re in a school zone, 20 (mph) means 20 (mph),” Decker said.
While texting and driving is always illegal in Texas, mobile phone use within a school zone warrants an automatic $200 fine.