AUSTIN – As the start of the new school year approaches, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) cautions Texans to watch for children who are walking to and from school or waiting for buses. Drivers should be especially alert and careful around school buses – which make frequent stops – and always follow traffic laws regarding school buses and school zones.

“DPS is calling on drivers to do their part in keeping our children safe this school year by always obeying school zone speed limits and stopping for school buses,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Individuals who disregard the law and illegally pass stopped school buses not only face significant traffic fines, but they needlessly put children in harm’s way – and we take these violations very seriously.”

The moments when students are entering or exiting a bus can be one of the most dangerous times during a child’s trip on a school bus. Accordingly, DPS urges drivers to slow down and pay attention in school zones, since children may unexpectedly step into a roadway without checking for oncoming traffic.

State law requires that approaching drivers stop when a bus is stopped and operating a visual signal – either red flashing lights or a stop sign.  Drivers should not proceed until the school bus resumes motion; the driver is signaled by the bus driver to proceed; or the visual signal is no longer activated. A driver does not have to stop for a school bus that is operating a visual signal if it is on a highway with roadways separated by an intervening space or physical barrier. (If a highway is divided only by a left-turning lane, the roadways are not considered separated, and drivers must stop for school buses.)

Drivers who illegally pass school buses face fines up to $1,250 for a first offense. For individuals convicted of this offense more than once, the law allows the individual’s driver license to be suspended for up to six months. (A ticket for illegally passing a school bus cannot be dismissed through defensive driving.)