Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler July 24, 2015

texas school bus laws

Photo by Lunamarina (iStock by Getty Images)

Are you aware of Texas school bus laws? Apparently, many drivers in Dallas County are not — or they’re disregarding them, placing Dallas-area school children at risk.

Officials for Dallas County Schools have tracked many cases of motorists ignoring Texas school bus laws by driving past buses when they stop to load or unload children while attached bus stop signs are lowered and bus red lights are flashing.

Hired to handle transportation for 11 area school districts, including Dallas Independent School District, the non-profit Dallas County Schools cracked down on lawbreakers on April 29, 2015, as did school districts in Houston, San Antonio and other Texas cities.

School Bus Fines of $300 to $1,000

Dangerous areas were monitored and drivers were cited for violations, making them subject to school bus fines of at least $300. The Texas Department of Transportation says fines for passing a school bus can range even up to $1,000, depending on the nature of the violation.

Dallas police also can monitor violations thanks to live video feeds from bus-mounted cameras. Since such cameras were mounted on Dallas school buses three years ago, Dallas police have caught around 92,000 violating drivers.

By Texas law (Sec. 545.066), when a school bus has stopped to load or unload students and has lowered its attached stop sign and/or is flashing its red warning lights, you may not pass. Rather, you are required to stop your vehicle before reaching the bus.

You must stop no matter what side of the street you’re on, or whether you’re ahead or behind the bus. An exception would be if you’re on the opposite side of the street from the bus, and the street is divided by a barrier, or median.

Besides the bus raising its lowered stop signs and/or turning off its flashing red lights, indicators that you may continue include the bus going back in motion or the bus driver signaling that it’s OK for other vehicles to move on.

Many drivers ignore Texas school bus laws, hurriedly passing school buses which have stopped for children. That’s resulted in some school children being hit and injured in boarding areas.

Worst Dallas Intersections

Such drivers are called “stop arm violators.” The worst Dallas intersections for school bus violations — all near a campus — are:

  • 5300 block of Boaz Street
  • 2900-3000 block of Harry Hines Boulevard
  • 5700 block of Bellcrest Drive
  • 13500 block of US 75 (North Central Expressway) north feeder road
  • 6000 East Northwest Highway

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas has an average of 1.4 million students transported by school bus each day of the school year. For those students, “the greatest risk is getting on or off the bus,” the DPS says.

Around 20 students per year are killed nationwide in school bus accidents while boarding or leaving a bus, and many more are injured — some seriously, the DPS reports. Most of the victims are children 5 to 7 years old, who have more of a tendency to dart across roads to catch a bus or when leaving one.

A majority of injuries and deaths happen in what’s known as a “danger zone” around a bus, comprising about 10 feet from all sides of the school bus. In this zone, children may be struck by vehicles or by the bus itself.

Failing to stop for a loading or unloading school bus is just one possible violation of Texas school bus laws designed to protect school children.

School Zones Have Lower Speed Limits

School zones also tend to have lower speed limits — often 20 miles per hour during early morning or late afternoon. Also, by state law you cannot use a cell phone while driving in a school zone.

A catch is that this law does not apply if proper signs are not posted near the school, thereby alerting drivers to the cell phone ban. Unfortunately, not every school district, including Houston ISD, has been able to afford to manufacture and place these signs.

Also keep in mind that fines for any traffic violations double in school zones, just as they double in work zones.

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