As Kids Head Back to School, Don’t Forget Safety

by Terry Bryant

The end of summer finds hundreds of thousands of Houston-area children returning to school. But this is not without hazards – especially when they’re traveling to and from school. In 2015, 663 vehicle crashes occurred in Texas school zones, seriously injuring 21 children. August and September alone saw 107 school zone traffic accidents.

The most common factors contributing to these crashes were driver inattention, failure to control speed, and failure to yield the right of way at stop signs. Below are some simple tips which can help your kids reach and return from school safely … and help drivers avoid costly fines and tickets.

Here are some of the suggestions offered by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to help all Texans reduce the chances of being involved in a school zone accident:

When Driving In or Near School Zones

  • Put away your cell phone. Cell phone use is banned in active school zones (during posted times and/or when the lights on school zone signs are blinking). Violators face fines of up to $200.
  • Always obey school zone speed-limit signs. Traffic fines usually double in those zones.
  • Drop off and pick up your children in your school’s designated areas, not in the middle of the street.
  • Keep an eye on children gathered at bus stops as they might suddenly step into the street.
  • Be alert for children who might dart across the street or appear out of nowhere between vehicles on their way to school.
  • Don’t block crosswalks.
  • Yield to pedestrians in all crosswalks.
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.
  • Never pass a bus loading or unloading children. The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children. When buses are stopped and their lights are flashing, under Texas state law no vehicle may pass the bus. Since many buses now have digital video cameras, it is a virtual certainty that you will be caught if you pass the bus. Drivers who violate this law can count on paying a fine as high as $1,250.

For Children Who Walk to School

  • Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk and you must walk in the street, walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Always cross at intersections and designated crosswalks. Look left, right, then left again before proceeding.
  • Look for traffic when stepping off a bus or from behind parked cars.
  • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
  • Always obey crossing guards.
  • Avoid walking while texting or talking on the phone.
  • Do not walk while using headphones.
  • For kids who backpack (which is just about all of them), here is more useful information.

For Children Biking to School

  • Always wear a helmet that fits you and is properly secured.
  • When riding together, children should ride single file on the right side of the road. At major intersections, they should come to a complete stop before crossing, and walk the bike across
  • Watch out for opening car doors and other “sudden” hazards.
  • Use hand signals when turning.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing.

For Children who Ride a School Bus

  • Teach your kids the proper way to get on and off the bus.
  • Children must line up at least six feet away from the curb as the bus approaches.
  • Buckle up if seat belts are on your bus.
  • Wait for the bus to completely stop before standing.
  • When exiting, do not cross the street immediately in front of the bus, if possible. Walk at least 10 feet ahead of the bus until you can see the other drivers (and they can see you) before crossing the street.

We hope you enjoy what remains of summer break, and that the transition back to school is an easy and safe one.