Give school buses a break

By Ken Esten Cooke— It shouldn’t even need a reminder, but when a school bus is stopped with lights flashing or its driver’s-side stop sign out, motorists need to stop.

The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a reminder of the law that should have been engrained in us during high school driver’s education courses.

Drivers must stop — traveling in either direction — when approaching a school bus that is stopped and operating a visual signal. The driver should remain stopped until the bus resumes motion, the bus driver signals to proceed or the visual signal is no longer activated.

If the road is divided only by a left-turn lane, drivers on both sides of the roadway must stop for school buses with alternating red flashing lights activated. However, if the lanes are separated by a median or other physical barrier, only motorists going in the same direction are required to stop.

Don’t forget that school buses are also required to stop at all railroad crossings.

The Texas Education Agency estimates that more than 40,000 school buses transport 1.5 million school children every day. The most dangerous times of a student’s bus trip are when they are entering or exiting the bus. Passing a stopped school bus creates a potentially deadly situation.

Yet, drivers today — both teens and adults — are many times distracted by their smart phones. But this “always on” and “always connected” mode is distracting and can be dangerous.

Ignoring these laws and passing school buses is not only potentially dangerous for students, but it can hit your pocketbook as well. Drivers who pass a school bus could face fines of up to $1,250. That amount was increased in September by new legislation.

Some school buses are now outfitted with cameras underneath the driver’s window that will capture passing cars and their license plate numbers if they violate this law.

So give our kids a break and stop when students are loading and unloading.              

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