Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
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By Jim Adler August 26, 2015

Schools are back in session, which means millions of Texas students are heading to and from classes by foot, car, bicycle, bus or other means. And that means safety tips for back to school transportation are essential.

Walking to School

Students who walk to school can do many things to enhance their chances of reaching class on time — and safely. These include:

  • Restricting use of headphones or ear buds which can mask sounds from traffic or other potential hazards
  • Looking where you’re going. Do not walk while staring at a cell phone to text, surf the Web, answer emails or anything else
  • Obeying all traffic signals and signs
  • Using crosswalks when crossing streets, and otherwise trying to stay on sidewalks or paths and keep separate from traffic.
  • Always look right and left before crossing and try to make eye contact with nearby drivers to ensure they’re aware of you.

Driving Near Schools

All drivers can take special precautions while driving near schools, not just those who are driving students to and from classes. This is vital because of the terrible toll school zone crashes can take.

Two fatalities and 112 serious injuries occurred in 625 crashes in school zones in Texas in 2014. Such crashes most often were attributed to failure to yield right-of-way at stop signs, failure to control speed and driver inattention.

Drivers who drop off students at school should do so in designated areas, not in the middle of the street, while being alert for children running out from between cars. Also remember: Fines for violations tend to double in school zones.

Taking the Bus

Each school day over one million students ride school buses to over 9,000 Texas schools. Motorists should know Texas school bus laws for students taking the bus.

Buses that stop to load or unload students will lower stop signs affixed to the bus and flash emergency lights to alert motorists. Drivers going in either direction must stop and wait until the process has ended and the bus signals it’s good to go by raising its stop sign and turning off its flashing lights.

School zones often tend to have 20 miles per hour speed limits, and driving while texting is illegal around schools with signs posted to that effect. In San Antonio and Austin, driving while using a handheld cell phone or similar device is illegal anywhere in the city.

Drivers also should be wary of students converging at a bus stop, even when no bus is present. As for students, they should stand as far back from the road as possible while waiting for a bus.

Bicycling to School

Bicyclists should use sidewalks or paths whenever possible, and if not, keep as far from vehicles as possible. Also, ride on the side of the street facing oncoming traffic and avoid high-speed, busy roads.

Bicycle riders should wear a protective helmet. They also should minimize the number of streets which must be crossed and if possible cross where a school crossing guard is available.

Safety First

All of these “safety first” tips are vital, since “teen crashes spike in September,” according to the National Safety Council. The peak hours for crashes in September correlate to the same hours as the start and finish of the school day.

Don’t become a statistic. Follow these and other safety tips and arrive alive at school or at home after class.

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