The start of the new school year is fast approaching — and in some cases, already upon us — which means we all need a refresher course on how to drive around town, especially during the hours of 7-9 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. on weekdays.
With Pineywoods Community Academy starting classes Wednesday, Zavalla schools starting Thursday, and the rest of Angelina County's schools starting back between Aug. 17 and 24, parents, students and all other motorists who find themselves in our school zones at those times need to remain focused and aware when behind the wheel, especially in school zones.
Analytics website Zendrive didn't release a School Safety Study for 2019, but the 2018 study gave four of our county's schools grades of D+, three schools a grade of D- and one an F, citing such bad driver behaviors as aggressive acceleration, hard-braking, speeding, and — in every case — phone use.
And in a 2019 Zendrive study, Texas was the sixth highest state for driving time spent using the phone at 7%. Simply put, we have got to put the phones — especially on school zones! — and start paying better attention while driving.
There are motor vehicle crashes in Texas school zones each year, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The most common factors contributing to the crashes were driver inattention, failure to control speed and failure to yield right of way.
We join TxDOT in encouraging motorists to be careful — and be considerate — in and around our school zones and crosswalks. We are happy to share the agency’s suggestions on keeping everyone safe this school year.
Tips for driving in school zones:
■ Turn off your cellphone. The use of cellphones is not permitted in active school zones when the vehicle is in motion.
■ Violators face fines of up to $200 in school zones where signs are posted.
■ Slow down and obey school zone speed limit signs. Traffic fines usually double in school zones.
■ Always come to a complete stop at stop signs. Check for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
Tips for children walking or biking to school:
■ Whenever possible, stay on sidewalks and use marked crosswalks.
■ When crossing streets, make eye contact with drivers and then look left, right and left again before proceeding.
■ Look for traffic when stepping off a bus or from behind parked cars and never run into the street.
■ Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.
Tips for sharing the road with school buses:
■ Always stop for flashing red lights on a school bus, regardless of which direction you’re headed, unless you’re on the other side of a divided highway.
■ Be prepared to stop at all railroad crossings if you are behind a school bus.
■ Watch for children who might run across the street as they get on or off the bus.
Watch for crossing guards, too. They’re there for a reason. And we’ll say it again: Stay off the phone anytime you’re in a school zone. It may not be illegal to text and drive everywhere in Texas yet, but it’s absolutely against the law to do it in a school zone. Just don’t do it.