HARLINGEN — The morning rush is common for drivers, particularly for parents running late.
Yet, trying to get your children to school as fast as possible is not the way to go, TxDOT reminds parents.
In the Rio Grande Valley in 2018, there were 63 traffic crashes in school zones, with no fatalities and no serious injuries. The most common causes for these crashes are failure to control speed, driver inattention and failure to yield the right of way, said Octavio Saenz, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation.
Because of this, TxDOT officials and the Harlingen Police Department would like to remind parents as well as students to follow guidelines and try to be as safe as possible.
“We know that people have busy mornings and we want to stress that simple behaviors can really make a huge difference,” Saenz said.
“Distracted driving and speeding in school zones as well as the use of the cell phone. People also need to respect the school buses. You have to stop when the bus driver signals the stop sign. We have had accidents were kids will also run out in front of the street or bus and it is up to the adult to be on the lookout for them,” he said.
These tips and guidelines are a part of the Be Safe, Drive Smart campaign. Its main purpose is reducing the number of accidents happening around schools and school buses.
“Another useful tip is to never tailgate a bus, and try to not be agitated during the mornings,” Saenz said.
“Another important tip is to drop off the children in a school designated area and put the phone away. In the state of Texas, it is a law to not text or send text messages in a moving vehicle in a school zone,” he said.
Children are also encouraged to make eye contact with drivers and to not be distracted by electronic devices when crossing a street.
Assistant Police Chief Miryam Anderson said the Harlingen Police Department is avidly working on monitoring school zones to deter accidents.
“We have assigned several officers to help ensure that all kids make it safely to school and back home. But we ask the public to be aware of their surroundings, especially in areas under construction,” she said.
“We are excited for this new school year and our school officers have returned to all schools to make sure that all of us together get to school safely,” she said.
Children Walking or Biking to School
• Always walk on sidewalks when they’re available.
• Look left and right before crossing a street and obey crossing guards.
• Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. Never assume a driver sees you.
• Look for traffic when stepping off a bus or from behind parked cars.
• Don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.
• Follow all traffic rules, signs and signals.
Drivers Sharing the Road with School Buses
• Never tailgate. Follow at a safe distance, keeping in mind that school buses make frequent stops.
• Stop for flashing red lights or a stop sign on a school bus, regardless of which direction you’re headed. Continue your trip once the bus has moved, the flashing lights stop flashing or the bus driver signals it’s OK to pass.
• Violations can lead to a fine of up to $1,250 for a first offense.
Driving in School Zones
• Stay alert and put your phone away. Using a handheld electronic device while driving in an active school zone is against the law.
• Always obey school zone speed limit signs. Remember, traffic fines usually double in school zones.
• Drop off and pick up your children in your school’s designated areas, not the middle of the street.
• Watch for children who might dart across the street or between vehicles.