Everyone can agree that drivers should exercise caution when they’re driving around schools, on the way to work in the morning or coming home mid-afternoon. School Zones exist because they keep kids safe. Through the implementation special speed limits before and after school, installation of timed flashing lights, and the use of crossing guards, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has put in place measures that are designed to protect children.
Even with these controls, there are specific things that drivers can do to ensure kids are safe. If you’re late for work, don’t make the mistake of speeding through a school zone or weaving through traffic when parents are trying to drop off their kids. You’ll pay for it. In Texas, police officers are present most of the time when school zones are active.
Common Sense Tips for Driving in School Zones
- Put your cellphone and mobile device away when you are proceeding through a school zone. It’s against law and you will be ticketed if a police officer sees you on your cellphone. If it’s during a time of day when school speed zone limits are enforced you can face a fine of up to $200. Given that police officers are often on duty patrolling school zones the risk of being fined increases.
- Don’t pass any other cars in a school zone. Big cities in Texas will have schools located on busy roads, some with two lanes going in each direction, some schools located in quiet neighborhoods and some in rural areas on the outskirts of town. No matter the location, it’s never safe to pass in a school zone. Stay in your lane, slow down and pass once you’ve cleared the zone.
- You must obey crossing guards at all times. At stop signs this is especially important since the crossing guard dictates when it’s safe for you to proceed through the intersection. If the school is on a busy street the crosswalk may be at a stop light. Pay extra attention here because even if the light turns green it may not be safe to go.
- Be extra careful around school buses. When they’re stopped with lights flashing and their stop signs engaged you must stop. In a busy city like Houston the only exception to this rule is when you are driving on a road with a median, typically this is a 4-lane road. If the bus is stopped with lights flashing, picking up or dropping of children, and you’re on the other side of the road heading in the other direction you don’t have to stop.
- In Texas there is always a speed limit sign that marks the end of the school zone. Make sure you completely clear the zone before accelerating. The end of the school zone may extend past to the school so pay attention and follow the signs.
- Generally speaking, school zones start 45 minutes before the beginning of school and end 30 minutes after the close of school. However, as drivers you can’t be certain of this. There are situations where these times will be extended for special events. If you see that you’re approaching a school zone be alert and prepared to reduce your speed to 20 mph.
If you’re not a parent who is dropping off or picking up children it ‘s probably best to find alternative routes and avoid school zones altogether. You’ll get to and from work faster, lessen your frustration and reduce the chance of getting a speeding ticket.
What is the Speed Limit in a School Zone in Texas?
In Texas the speed limit is 20 mph in an active school zone. You will know it’s an active school zone if lights are flashing on mechanized signs, or during certain times in the morning and afternoon. All of this information is sign posted so make sure you’re aware when driving near a school.
What are the Fines for Speeding in a School Zone in TX?
Speeding fines double in an active school zone which means at a minimum you’ll be faced with a $320 fine. Traffic fines listed below are from the Harris County Justice Courts.
- 1 to 10 mph over the speed limit $160
- 15 mph over the speed limit $185
- 20 mph over the speed limit $210
- Passing a stopped school bus up to $1,250 for a first offense
In 2017 the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported 811 accidents, 2 deaths and 30 serious injuries as a result of drivers who failed to control their speed in a school zone or were distracted by a phone or some other in car activity. These accidents and fatalities, of course were entirely preventable if drivers would simply slow down and pay attention.
Why do accidents happen in school zones?
Car accidents in school zones occur for the same reasons they do in any other part of the city. If you recall the days when you learned how to drive, you’ll know to avoid:
- Driving too fast
- Not paying attention, distracted by a mobile phone
- Not yielding the right of way to crossing guard, children and school buses
Always be aware that children can unexpectedly dart out on to the street, this is one of the most important reasons why you should be alert when driving in a school zone.
School Safety Tips for Parents and Children
To ensure the safety of your children it’s important that you teach them some important safety tips for going to or coming from school. If students are walking or biking to school make sure they:
- Never walk with an electronic device or mobile, put it away until they are on school property or in school
- Wear a helmet at all times when riding a bike
- When possible, enter the school premises with the crossing guard
- Never play near the street or dart out in between parked cars
- When no crossing guard is present, look both ways before crossing the street
- Make eye contact with drivers on the road before crossing an unguarded crosswalk
Whether you’re a driver, a child going to school or a pedestrian, in Houston you need be aware, at all times when approaching an intersection or crossing the street. Our lawyers are well aware of the number of times drivers run stop signs and red lights and cause car accidents. It occurs on a daily basis, in the morning, afternoon and at night. The best advice is to be vigilant and aware, teach your children to be safe and make sure an aggressive or reckless driver isn’t barreling through an intersection you’re in. If you’ve been given a ticket for speeding in a school zone and want to contest it, contact the traffic lawyers at Fleming Law, P.C. for help.