My route to and from work takes me through a couple of school zones, and every now and then I wind up behind a school bus and have to stop when it pulls over to discharge some riders. I think everybody knows that when you are behind a school bus and it stops, you need to stop as well, but did you know that the same is true if you’re on the opposite side of the street and you’re coming towards the bus? Well, if you didn’t know that, your ignorance could cost you.
This week, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers throughout the state are participating in a nationwide effort to keep schoolchildren safe. Troopers are riding on school buses and patrolling bus stops looking for violators as part of National School Bus Safety Week, which [ran though Friday].
In addition to troopers and Precinct 1 Constable deputies in Montgomery County, troopers in Harris County are also taking part in the safety program.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: When you see a school bus pull over to the curb, and its lights start blinking, stop. The exception is if you’re on the opposite side of a street that has a barrier in the middle – I presume a median counts, but as the story notes, a two-way turning lane does not. On my normal commute there are no such roads, so stopping is always the correct answer.
The sting part of this effort is now over, but that doesn’t mean you can zip by again. Putting aside the fact that it’s the right thing to do and not doing it puts kids in danger, police officers have been known to sit in school zones at other times as well.
Now here’s a little thought experiment for you. Suppose some entity decided to equip its school buses with cameras. These cameras turn on when the buses stop to pick up or drop off kids – which is to say, during the time when the buses’ red lights are blinking and vehicles are required by law to stop – and turn off when the bus doors close and the red lights stop blinking. If a vehicle is filmed going past the bus, on a road with no barrier, the owner of the car is sent a ticket, which can be appealed through a traffic court. Would you consider that to be a valid enforcement mechanism, or would you insist that the only legitimate way to enforce this law is by having a police officer catch people in the act? I’m just curious.