The Texas Department of Public Safety's School Bus Transportation program is urging the more than 1,200 school districts in the state to being preparing for a one-day count in April of motorists that illegally pass school buses that are loading and unloading students.
It is against the law in Texas to pass a school bus from either direction when the alternately flashing red lights and stop arm are activated. Motorists must remain stopped untl the school bus resumes motion, if the red lights are no longer flashing or if the school bus driver waves motorists to pass. The only time motorists are not required to stop is when encountering a school bus on a controlled-access highway with a physical median and pedestrians aren't permitted to cross.
Last spring, NASDPTS promoted its second annual, nationwide stop-arm count, in which 28 states including Texas participated. A total of 99,930 school buses were represented, and the school bus drivers reported 39,760 passing incidents involving 88,025 vehicles, all but 2 percent of which illegally passed on the left side of the bus. Texas had 10,885 school buses represented, the fourth most in the nationwide behind Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, with California only estimating not quite 5,000 buses particpating in the count. NASDPTS estimated that, in a typical 180-day school year, about 16 million stop-arm violations occur.
Complete 2012 state figures are online.
While NASDPTS is again promoting a one-day count this year, Rebecca Rocha Texas DPS said local school districts are enouraged to tally illegally passings during morning, mid-day and afternoon routes on April 10 and to report the results by May 31. The DPS is also providing a revised reporting form and illegal passing results spreadsheet on its website as well as an online survey link for submitting the results. Rocha said the link will be made available at a later date.
"Students are far safer in school buses than in other ways they get to school, but when they are outside the bus, they are the most vulnerable. Any driver who passes a stopped school bus illegally is gambling with a child's life," said Rocha. "The data collected from the survey will be used to determine prevalence of illegal passing of school buses within Texas. Therefore, it is extremely important that we have a high participation rate."