TXDOT and local agencies warn drivers to follow the law in school zones

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Despite the pandemic, there were still hundreds of crashes in school zones across Texas last year. Now that Borderland kids are back in school, multiple agencies are coming together to warn you to watch out for students’ safety.

A new campaign is warning drivers to pay attention and slow down in school zones and around school buses to avoid fines but also avoid a tragic accident.

“The last thing we want to do is leave for our day and end up with a child getting hurt,” said Commander Ryan Urrutia of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

TXDOT said there were 11 people seriously injured in school zone crashes in 2020 as well as more than 1,214 crashes involving school buses in Texas and that was mostly during the pandemic.

“We haven’t seen our children back in school for well over a year so we’ve got accustomed to not obeying the laws within the school zones,” said Commander Urrutia.

A public service announcement as part of an El Paso school safety campaign shows some tips on common mistakes people make.

Tips for Driving in School Zones:
• Be aware that traffic patterns around schools may have changed since the last school year, and expect more vehicles on the road as many students will be returning for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
• Stay alert and put your phone away. Using a handheld electronic device while driving in an active school zone is against the law.
• Always obey school zone speed limit signs. Remember, traffic fines increase in school zones.
• Drop off and pick up your children in your school’s designated areas, not the middle of the street.
• Keep an eye on children gathered at bus stops.
• Watch for children who might dart across the street or between vehicles.

Tips for Drivers Sharing the Road with School Buses:
• Follow at a safe distance, keeping in mind that school buses make frequent stops.
• Always remain alert for children around buses and remember that they may not always look for vehicles before crossing the street.
• Stop for flashing red lights or a stop sign on a school bus, regardless of which direction you’re headed. Continue your trip once the bus has moved, the flashing lights stop flashing or the bus driver signals it’s okay to pass.
• Violations can lead to a fine of up to $1,250 for a first offense.

Tips for Children Walking or Biking to School:
• Always use sidewalks. If there’s not a sidewalk, walk on the left side of the street facing traffic.
• Cross the street at intersections or marked crosswalks. Look left, right and left again before proceeding.
• Always obey crossing guards.
• Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. Never assume a driver sees you.
• Look for traffic when stepping off a bus or from behind parked vehicles.
• Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.
• Don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.
• Follow all traffic rules, signs and signals.

“Many of the people that are killed, involving school bus related accidents, are children between the ages of four and seven,” said El Paso Police Department Lieutenant Jaime Velasquez.

Police said they’ll be keeping an eye out for drivers breaking the law.

“El Paso police department is out there in full force. Enforcing the school zones,” said Lieutenant Velasquez.

Dr. Armando Aguirre, the Education Service Center Region 19 Executive Director said educators do warn students to be careful near roads and make safe choices but it’s drivers who need to be more aware.

“Because they are kids, I think the adults need to take the lead and show the way. So we need to make sure that first of all we abide by all the laws when it comes to school zones,” said Dr. Aguirre.

Fines within a school zone are doubled.

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