By Trooper Ruben San Miguel & Tami Troell
School starts next week. As drivers, we need to become increasingly aware of the movement of children in our area either as pedestrians or on a school bus. Operators must know the law with regard of school zones as well as school buses.
Goliad has four recognized school zones. The first is located on Pearl Street and U.S. Highway 59 and stretches from near San Patricio to Washington streets. This area is marked with flashing school zone signs that operate in the early morning and in the afternoon. This zone has a posted speed limit of 20 mph while the sign is flashing and remains this speed until the driver has reached the “School Zone Ends” sign.
The second zone is located near the Goliad Elementary School campus. You will need to look for the corresponding signs on the various streets surrounding the area.
The posted speed limit in this area is 20 mph for the entire school day (7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) if school is in session.
The third and fourth zones are near the middle and high schools. The same speed limit of 20 mph is in effect for both areas for the entire school day while school is in session (the zones do not apply on weekends, school vacations or holidays).
Receiving a speeding citation in an active school zone will result in a traffic fine double the normal fee.
An operator may not use a cell phone device in a school zone. TRC 545.4252 states that it is a violation of law to use a wireless communication device while operating a vehicle on the school property that has been designated as a school crossing zone during the time of reduced speed limit is in effect. Permitted usage would be utilizing a hands-free device, using the cell phone while the vehicle is stopped (parked and not waiting at a stop sign), or making a call for an emergency response service. A driver can be fined up to $500 for this violation of law.
Finally, a driver is required to understand the laws surrounding a school bus loading and unloading.
A school bus is equipped with both flashing yellow and flashing red lights. Just as these lights require traffic to slow and/or stop on a regular traffic signal, the bus’s lights have the same meaning.
In addition to the flashing lights, many buses are also equipped with a stop sign that extends when the door is opened. This stop sign has the same weight as that octagon sign posted at an intersection. It means “Stop” for all traffic behind and advancing towards the bus.
TRC 545.066 requires an operator of a vehicle approaching from either direction of a school bus either receiving or discharging a student to stop before reaching the bus and do not proceed until any of the following occur: the bus resumes motion; the operator is signaled by the bus driver to proceed; or the visual signal is no longer activated.
The only vehicles not required to stop for a school bus are vehicles on a separate roadway – a roadway that is separated by either a raised median or an intervening space for which the operation of a vehicle is prohibited.
A roadway is not considered separated when the lanes are only separated by a left turn lane such as is found on Pearl Street. Therefore, a driver approaching a bus stopped on Pearl Street is required to stop and follow the usual rules.
We have heard complaints from several drivers who are regularly passed by vehicle operators while the school bus is loading and/or unloading students. One bus calculated an average of 15 times per week his bus was passed when all drivers were required to stop. Another driver said that six was his average per week.
Drivers who disregard an active school bus stop are putting the lives of innocent children at risk. An offense under this law is punishable by a fine up to $1,250. There are enhancements for subsequent violations as well as for injury or death to a child.
Our children are blessings that need to be protected. With school starting, please make a conscious effort to obey all traffic laws regarding school zones. Please be cognizant of the school bus stops and follow the law regarding these areas. Don’t allow negligent driving to hurt or kill a child.
If you have a question about traffic laws, you can submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or www.facebook.com/happytroells.