The Department of Public Safety in Texas reminds drivers to be prepared for the new school year. Drivers should know laws about driving near a stopped school bus and not texting while driving, and parents should be aware of safety rules that they could enforce on their children while they are in the car.
“Heading back to school is such an exciting time and we all need to work together to ensure everyone stays safe,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Please, be cautious and do your part by talking to your kids about safety, reporting suspicious activity and by following traffic laws in and around school zones.”
DPS offers these tips for back to school safety:
- Give students extra room and don’t assume they are paying attention to traffic. Students are frequently distracted by mobile devices or listening on electronic devices and may not be paying attention to their surroundings.
- Don’t block a crosswalk when stopped at a red light or stop sign.
- Follow the directions of school crossing guards.
- Watch for children on bicycles traveling to and from schools.
- Reduce your speed when you spot a school bus and know children may unexpectedly step into the road without checking for oncoming traffic.
- Be careful around railroad crossings. School buses are legally required to stop at them.
- Know laws regarding school buses. According to Texas law, if a bus has alternating flashing red signals visible from the front or rear, drivers MUST stop before reaching the bus. Drivers can only proceed if the flashing lights are no longer activated, the driver signals you to proceed or the bus has resumed driving. Approaching drivers do NOT have to stop for a school bus that is operating a visual signal if the road is separated by a physical barrier or an intervening space. If a highway is only divided by a left-turn lane, it is not considered divided and drivers must stop for school buses.
- Drivers who illegally pass a school bus face fines up to $1,250 for the first offense. For people convicted of the offense more than once, the law allows for the person’s driver license to be suspended for up to six months. A ticket for this offense cannot be dismissed through defensive driving. Criminal charges are possible if a driver causes someone serious bodily injury.
- Always obey speed limits and traffic laws in school zones.
- Remember, texting while driving is illegal in Texas.
Texas also has some other safety tools available during the school year for students, parents, teachers and school administrators.
A critical resource for reporting suspicious activity in schools and communities in order to help prevent dangerous attacks is the iWatchTexas program. Download the free iOS or Android mobile app prior to the start of the school year. Tips can be reported via the website, the mobile app or by calling 844-643-2251. All reports are confidential. For information on how to use iWatchTexas, wtach the video below
The Texas School Safety Center is another useful tool for school security. The Texas School Safety Center has staff experienced in school safety and can provide technical assistance or training, conduct program evaluations or offer resources to schools. Classes are also available online for the community. The center is part of Texas State University, which offers valuable resources on school safety for parents and members of the school community.
Finally, on Sept. 1, 2021, DPS implemented the Active Shooter Alert System. In the event of a shooting at a school, is not just people near the school who will be notified. This tool uses cell phones, local broadcast media, and Texas Department of Transportation Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) to let people know what happening.
DPS will issue an Active Shooter Alert if a request meets their requirements. These include the active shooter being in the agency’s jurisdiction, determining that the alert would be useful to people near the active shooter, verifying the active shooter situation through a preliminary investigation by the requesting agency, and that it is also possible to identify the shooter’s last known location.
Use these resources to help work together to keep the kids of Texas Forest Country and al of Texas safe.