With the school year approaching, the Waxahachie Police Department advises drivers to be mindful of students going to and from their campuses.
Assistant Police Chief Dale Sigler said the beginning weeks of a school year can be a bit hectic for everyone – and the department is taking extra steps to ensure everything goes smoothly for both students and motorists.
“We want all of the drivers to be cognitive and aware at all times,” he said. “We will have extra officers out in the school zones. We would ask that the parents pay attention and set a good example for their children.
That includes not texting while driving.
“State law now requires that you cannot text and drive,” Sigler said. “So, pay attention to the road in front of you. It is going to be crowded. The first week of school is always going to be crowded. Pay attention, drive slowly and obey all of the traffic laws.”
According to the latest data available from the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2017, there were 811 vehicle crashes in school zones that resulted in two deaths and 30 serious injuries. The most common causes were preventable and included failure to control speed, driver inattention and failure to yield right of way – private drive.
“We do have a dedicated traffic unit and we will have them all hands-on deck during the first few days of school,” Sigler said. “We will also have extra security up at the high school. That is always an issue with the influx of traffic coming off of (U.S. Highway) 287 and going underneath the highway. So, we will have officers there trying to direct that traffic and keep it flowing the best that we can.
“Please remember that there is always a massive influx of parents trying to drop off their kids the first week of school,” he said. “We ask that you fill your coffee cups up and have a lot of patience for the first week, please.”
Assistant Police Chief Joe Wiser echoed Sigler’s comments and advises drivers to be alert, to drive defensively and to keep their eyes on the road.
Across the state, TxDOT reported 540,561 motor vehicle crashes in 2018. Of those, 95,572 or 18-percent were caused by distracted driving (driver distraction, inattention or cell phone use). Those distracted driving accidents resulted in 394 deaths and 2,340 serious injuries.
Effective Sept. 1, 2017, state law has prohibited drivers from reading, writing or sending electronic messages on mobile phones while driving.
The Texas Department of Public Safety joins local law enforcement agencies in urging drivers to be extra cautious with school starting, especially around school buses.
“With school districts across Texas returning to classes in the coming weeks, DPS is urging drivers to slow down and be alert in school zones and wherever children are present,” director Steven McCraw McCraw said in a statement. “Motorists who disregard the law and illegally pass stopped school buses put our schoolchildren in harm’s way – and that reckless and irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated by DPS.”
Drivers are advised to be aware of buses loading and unloading passengers. They need to reduce their speed and be mindful that children may unexpectedly step into a roadway without checking for oncoming traffic.
“State law requires that drivers stop when a bus is stopped and operating a visual signal – either red flashing lights or a stop sign,” according to the DPS website. “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. Approaching drivers do not have to stop for a school bus that is operating a visual signal if the roadway is separated by a physical barrier or an intervening space.”
By law, school buses by law have to stop at all railroad crossings, according to the DPS website, which notes that drivers who illegally pass school buses face fines up to $1,250 for the first offense. If convicted of this offense more than once, the law allows an individual’s license to be suspended for up to six months.