School is starting, so watch for kids

Published on Friday, 22 August 2014 00:34 - Written by

Tyler school children will soon be back in school, and drivers must be alert now for school zones and school kids. Staying alert near school zones and near buses is imperative, because it’s up to drivers to keep children safe.

“The lights will be flashing on Monday, and that’s your indication that we’ll have officers out monitoring school locations,” Tyler Police Department spokesman Don Martin says. “We want drivers to be aware of school zones, of course, but also areas around schools, where kids might be walking to or from school.”

Police will be paying close attention to how drivers behave around school buses.

“When those school bus lights come on, you need to be ready to stop,” Martin says.

The most dangerous time of a student’s journey on a school bus is when they are entering or exiting the bus, the Texas Department of Public Safety says. And state law requires that approaching drivers stop when a school bus is stopped and operating a visual signal (red flashing lights or a stop sign).

Drivers who do not stop for school buses face a fine of up to $1,000, the DPS adds. If a driver is convicted of this offense more than one time, the DPS can suspend their license for up to six months.

“And we remind parents to keep their kids buckled up, and provide car seats when necessary,” Martin said. “We want these kids to be safe.”

Tyler police also will be on the lookout for drivers in school zones who are using their cell phones.

“The law says no cell phone usage unless you’re on Bluetooth,” Martin said. “The goal is to have drivers paying attention to their surroundings, not distracted by cell phone calls.”

From August 2013 to June 213, Tyler police issued 522 tickets for using cell phones in school zones. That’s down from last year, but still too high.

The fine for using a cell phone in a school zone is up to $200, with court costs added on.

It’s also a bad idea to text and drive, especially around schools.

In a study released in 2010, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that when drivers of heavy trucks texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting, the Associated Press reports. The Virginia Tech researchers said the risks of texting generally applied to all drivers, not just truckers.

Yet an estimated 20 percent of us are guilty of texting and driving; when the age group of 18 to 24 is broken out, the number jumps to 66 percent.

So it’s simply best to put the phone down.

Speeding in school zones is an even larger problem. Tyler police issued 2,585 citations for speeding in a school zone last year, with another 15 citations issued for failure to stop for a school bus.

Police also ticket drivers for disobeying a crossing guard.

“Be aware of crossing guards and follow their instructions,” Martin warns.

A new school year means new opportunities and a new routine for school children. It also means new responsibilities for the rest of us.