ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – TxDOT Odessa says it’s been a while since a child was killed in a local school zone, and they’re trying to keep it that way. That’s why the agency has an important warning for West Texas drivers.

“We all have routes for what we do each day, and for the last few months we haven’t had school. Well now suddenly, there’s going to be school zones. And (drivers) are in the habit of driving 30 or 40 miles per hour down a residential street, but now it could be a school zone and the speed limit could be dropped to 20,” said TxDot Public Information Officer Gene Powell.

Powell also says drivers need to ditch the cell phones in school zones to keep kids safe and avoid getting pulled over.

“One of the things (law enforcement) will be looking for is cell phone use, because it is illegal to use your cellphone in a school zone,” said Powell.

But TxDot knows parents and students also play a big role when it comes to kids and road safety, which is why they’re encouraging local parents to talk to their kids. That’s exactly what local father Michael Franco has been doing.

“The second my kid started learning how to talk, I started teaching him the rules of the road, and just about always looking both ways even if it’s a one-way intersection,” said Franco.

TxDot has plenty of other tips as well:

Tips for Driving in School Zones

  • Be aware that traffic patterns around schools may have changed since the last school year.
  • Stay alert and put your phone away. Using a handheld electronic device while driving in an active school zone is against the law.
  • Always obey school zone speed limit signs. Remember, traffic fines increase in school zones.
  • Drop off and pick up your children in your school’s designated areas, not the middle of the street.
  • Keep an eye on children gathered at bus stops.
  • Watch for children who might dart across the street or between vehicles.

Tips for Drivers Sharing the Road with School Buses

  • Follow at a safe distance, keeping in mind that school buses make frequent stops.
  • Always remain alert for children around buses and remember that they may not always look for vehicles before crossing the street.
  • Stop for flashing red lights or a stop sign on a school bus, regardless of which direction you’re headed. Continue your trip once the bus has moved, the flashing lights stop flashing or the bus driver signals it’s okay to pass.
  • Violations can lead to a fine of up to $1,250 for a first offense.

Tips for Children Walking or Biking to School

  • Always use sidewalks. If there’s not a sidewalk, walk on the left side of the street facing traffic.
  • Cross the street at intersections or marked crosswalks. Look left, right and left again before proceeding.
  • Always obey crossing guards.
  • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. Never assume a driver sees you.
  • Look for traffic when stepping off a bus or from behind parked vehicles.
  • Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.
  • Don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.