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By Jim Adler August 25, 2014

School’s back — but not just kids need to learn. Drivers must heed changing Texas safety laws which can cost big fines for school zone violations.

But beyond fines, why is it so important to reduce speed and be extra alert around school zones and school bus stops?

Consider this: The National Safe Kids Campaign says a person hit by a car going 30 mph — a standard city street speed limit — is eight times more likely to die than if hit by a car going 20 mph, the normal school zone speed limit.

Too, the third leading cause of death for children 5 to 9 years old is getting hit by a car — and 20 per cent of all kids 5-9 who are killed in crashes are pedestrians.

In 2013, Texas had 625 crashes in school zones, causing two deaths and 112 serious injuries. In August and September alone, at the start of school, 104 crashes happened in school zones.

With the sheer volume of kids heading back to school, you can’t be too careful.

Now about those laws: Fines can vary depending on the city and its ordinances.

Houston Police say fines can double if you’re speeding in a school zone. Houston fines for speeding in a school zone start at $215 for going 1-5 mph over the limit and rise to $325 for going 30 mph over the limit.

In San Antonio, fines for speeding in school zone start at $206 for the first 10 mph over the limit, then rise by $5 for each additional mph over the limit.

In Dallas, fines start at $246 for going up to 10 mph over the limit, then rise to $329 for going 20 mph over the limit.

Those amounts include court costs. Also, school zone laws apply for posted hours, usually in early morning and mid-afternoon.

By Texas law, major fines also apply if you fail to stop for a school bus loading or unloading, running from a $500 minimum to a maximum fine of $1,250 for a first offense (per last year’s HB 1147). And for a second offense, your license can be suspended and you can be hit with a maximum fine of $5,000.

It should be no surprise that you can’t get such tickets dismissed via a defensive driving course.

By state law, drivers using cellphones in school zones can be fined. But signs must be posted for that law to take effect, and Houston ISD hasn’t been able to afford them.

Beyond laws and fines, parents should teach their kids to cross streets only in crosswalks, and if they go by bus or car, watch out for vehicles when getting in or out.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 87 per cent of children get to school by bus or by car, while only 13 per cent walk or ride a bike — compared to 90 per cent who walked or biked in 1969. That means far more kids are riding in vehicles around school zones, so watch out for them too.

As any school should teach, and as everyone should heed: safety first.

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