School is out for summer, so drivers can relax about Texas school bus laws, right? Wrong. Many school districts offer summer classes or camps, and many school buses are still running.
Besides, any time is a good time to brush up on Texas school bus laws — not only to avoid getting a ticket of up to $1,000, but to protect innocent children when buses load or unload passengers. Lives are at stake, which is why school bus laws are strict — and are being vigorously enforced.
Indeed, many Texas cities are cracking down on school bus law violators, especially when they drive past school buses that have stopped to let children get on or off. That’s a particularly dangerous time and place, since it only takes seconds for a child to get off a school bus, walk around its front end and step in front of oncoming traffic — traffic which, by Texas law, should have stopped.
In January of 2016, the Austin school district began a School Bus Stop-Arm Safety Camera program. For this program, video cameras began monitoring which drivers illegally passed a school bus. Such drivers were fined $300 after January. (In the program’s first month, drivers received only warnings.)
More than half of Austin school district buses, or around 300 buses, now have cameras mounted on them. These cameras can catch when drivers illegally pass school buses which have stopped to let children get on or off.
The company which provided the camera installations keeps around 60 percent of ticket revenue, with the Austin school district keeping the remainder.
Smaller school districts in San Marcos, Elgin and Eanes, Texas, also have begun issuing tickets via comparable school bus camera systems.
Big cities are cracking down, too.
Dallas County Schools also are catching violators thanks to school bus cameras. Dallas Police can keep track of violations via live video from cameras which were installed on Dallas school buses starting four years ago. So far, Dallas Police have caught around 100,000 drivers with violations.
Houston and San Antonio also have joined Dallas to crack down on school bus law violations, often by police monitoring especially dangerous areas.
If all Texas violators were ticketed, fines would add up dramatically, because far too many drivers are breaking Texas school bus laws.
In 2015, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services conducted its annual National Stop Arm Violation Count survey. Results for Texas showed 3,862 drivers illegally passed a sample of 6,869 Texas school buses in a single day.
Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with Texas school bus laws. If so, we can help.
First, you should know that you can be fined at least $300 and up to $1,000 for violating school bus laws, such as passing a school bus during loading or unloading of students, says the Texas Department of Transportation
Texas school bus law (Sec. 545.066) is clear. It states that drivers must stop before reaching a bus that’s halted to load or unload students and has lowered an attached stop sign and/or is flashing red lights of warning.
That goes for whether you are approaching a stopped bus from behind while driving on the same side of the street or, when you’re on the other side of the street, if you’re approaching a stopped bus from its front end. Either way, you must stop for loading and unloading of children.
However, an exception is if you’re on the other side of the street and that street is divided by a median or other barrier. Then you can proceed.
When you’ve stopped for a bus unloading or loading students, when can you proceed? Indicators to proceed are if the bus lowers its attached stop signs and/or turns off its flashing red warning lights. A bus driver also may signal by hand that it’s all right for vehicles to proceed.
The overriding factor for Texas school bus laws is the degree of dangers for students. The Texas Department of Public Safety says the greatest risk for students is when they get on or off a school bus. That’s why school bus laws are particularly strict for drivers approaching school buses which are loading or unloading passengers.
Nationally, about 20 students each year are killed when leaving or boarding a school bus, and numerous other students are injured, sometimes severely. Most of these deaths and injuries occur in a “danger zone” of around 10 feet on all sides of the bus.
The majority of victims are 5 to 7 years of age, when children are more prone to run across roads suddenly. But students of other ages also have fallen victim, so don’t relax your vigilance around a high school or intermediate school.
If your child was injured in a school bus accident, get an accident lawyer from Jim Adler & Associates to protect your legal rights. Your family may be due financial compensation for your child’s medical bills and pain and suffering.
>Contact one of our offices in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston or Channelview and get a free legal review of your case. Then you can decide how you want to proceed. If you elect to engage an Adler school bus lawyer or injury attorney, we will try to help.*Click here to read Part 1 of our blog, Texas School Bus Laws