by Jim Adler
Anytime is a good time to heed traffic laws and drive safely. But with school resuming and Labor Day weekend looming, now is an especially good time.
Just ask the Texas Department of Public Safety. It points to higher fines for driving violations around school buses or school zones.
Effective Sunday is a law holding that drivers who pass a Texas school bus illegally (while it’s loading or unloading) will face stiffer penalties. The maximum fine for a first offense will rise from $1,000 to $1,250. And if you violate the law more than once, you could have your driver’s license suspended for up to half a year.
Also, such tickets can’t be dismissed by taking a course in defensive driving.
Drivers also should slow down in school zones according to posted signs (often 20 miles per hour). A ticket for speeding in a school zone can reach as much as $225.
But it’s not just drivers who should be wary. Parents must teach their kids that alertness is vital when boarding or leaving a school bus or walking to or from school. Students should stow cell phones and pay attention to traffic.
As for Labor Day weekend, DPS troopers already are beefing up patrols for drunk drivers, while focusing on high-risk locations and times. Funded through the Texas Department of Transportation, these enhanced patrols also were in effect last year. This year they run from Aug. 19 to Sept. 9.
Last year’s DPS effort produced 1,879 arrests for DWI, with 503 attributed to heightened patrols. The DPS also issued almost 25,000 speeding tickets, over 4,000 tickets for lacking insurance and nearly 4,000 seatbelt or child safety seat citations.
Also in effect for Labor Day is the annual “no refusal weekend.” That’s when law officers who suspect drivers of being drunk can issue a search warrant to get a blood draw if drivers refuse other types of alcohol testing.
And on Sunday, Texas’ “Move Over, Slow Down” law expands. It adds TxDOT vehicles to the fire trucks, police cars, ambulances and tow trucks for which you must slow down by 20 mph under the posted limit or move over a lane when passing, even when they’re on the shoulder.
So with schools open, a holiday coming and new laws on the books, what can you do?
Let’s choose safety first — and have a great holiday and great school year.