AUSTIN (Nexstar) — With students headed back to class, the Texas Department of Public Safety is urging drivers to pay extra attention in school zones.
Use of a wireless communication device is prohibited in a school zone unless the driver is using a hands-free device or the vehicle is stopped, according to Texas Transportation Code. Statewide, drivers face $200 tickets if caught using cell phones in school zones while the car is in motion.
“Stay off the cell phones, keep distraction to a bare minimum, keep your eyes moving because you never know when some student, some child crossing to and from school or just playing may dart out in front of you between vehicles,” DPS Sergeant. Victor Taylor said.
Outside of school areas, drivers can receive tickets amounting to less than $100 for a first-time offense of using a phone while driving. Additional offenses come with heftier price tags.
“It is an issue of motorists on their cell phones,” Taylor said, adding that it can be difficult for troopers to enforce those regulations.
“I think every now and then you can catch yourself because it’s attached to you, doing something like texting,” Austin parent Mary Ankenbauer said.
“You could easily hit a child, a person or anyone crossing the street, you shouldn’t be using your phone,” Ankenbauer said.
When asked DPS for data relating to cell phone violations including citations, warnings and vehicle stops in school zones, an agency spokesperson insisted this reporter file a public information request, giving the agency up to 10 days to provide that information.
According to The Texas Department of Transportation’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” public awareness campaign, there were 765 crashes in Texas school zones in 2018, resulting in 1 death and 15 serious injuries.
“Hopefully everybody will do their part but there are those that will not do their part and that’s where we come in,” Taylor added. “Texas Department of Public Safety troopers are out there throughout the school year enforcing any violations that we see and taking appropriate action.”
Additionally, DPS is warning the public on the regulations surrounding driving near school buses.
If a school bus has alternating flashing red signals in the front or back, drivers must stop before reaching the bus. Violators face fines up to $1,250 for the first offense. Additional offenses could lead to license suspension.