LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — There’s only a few weeks left until school is over for the summer, but the Leander Police Department is just beginning a new campaign. The goal is to get drivers to be more aware of school buses in the area — especially when they have their stop sign flashing. Working with the Traffic Enforcement and Management Team — as well as Leander ISD and the Leander Transportation Department — the “STOP! Don’t Get BUSted” campaign is underway.
Starting this week and running until the end of the school year, officers will “shadow” Leander ISD school buses on their morning and afternoon routes to catch drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses with red warning lights flashing, as well as stopping drivers for other moving violations that impact the safety of the children being transported on the buses. Officers are asking all drivers to be aware and be cautious any time a school bus is stopped, be more cautious when the yellow lights are flashing, and STOP when the school bus has activated the red lights. The Department says they don’t want people to follow the rules just because a police officer might be following the bus over the next few weeks; they hope it makes a difference because it’s the right thing to do.
“If someone wasn’t paying attention and hit a child or almost hit a child, it will change their life — as well as the family’s life of the child they hit. And that’s what we are trying to prevent,” said Leander Police Lt. Derral Partin.
Police say you need to stop for a bus when it’s stop sign is flashing and you’re driving on a two-lane road, or if you’re driving on a road that’s only divided by a left-hand turn lane. If there is a median dividing you from the bus, you do not have to stop.
“If you see the yellow start to come on the bus, be prepared to stop, and when you see the red stop: Stop; please stop. It can be life or death, and so we encourage every motorist out there: If in doubt, always stop,” said Kirby Campbell, Leander Transportation Department director.
Violators can face a fine of up to $1,250. If drivers are caught more than once, they could be ticketed for up to $2,000.
Educate yourself on the law text so you know when and how to stop
Sec. 545.066. PASSING A SCHOOL BUS; OFFENSE. (a) An operator on a highway, when approaching from either direction a school bus stopped on the highway to receive or discharge a student:
(1) shall stop before reaching the school bus when the bus is operating a visual signal as required by Section 547.701; and
(2) may not proceed until:
(A) the school bus resumes motion;
(B) the operator is signaled by the bus driver to proceed; or
(C) the visual signal is no longer actuated.
(b) An operator on a highway having separate roadways is not required to stop:
(1) for a school bus that is on a different roadway; or
(2) if on a controlled-access highway, for a school bus that is stopped:
(A) in a loading zone that is a part of or adjacent to the highway; and
(B) where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.
(c) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $500 or more than $1,250, except that the offense is:
(1) a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000 if the person is convicted of a second or subsequent offense under this section committed within five years of the date on which the most recent preceding offense was committed;
(2) a Class A misdemeanor if the person causes serious bodily injury to another; or
(3) a state jail felony if the person has been previously convicted under Subdivision (2).
(d) The court may order that the driver’s license of a person convicted of a second or subsequent offense under this section be suspended for not longer than six months beginning on the date of conviction. In this subsection, “driver’s license” has the meaning assigned by Chapter 521.
(e) If a person does not pay the previously assessed fine or costs on a conviction under this section, or is determined by the court to have insufficient resources or income to pay a fine or costs on a conviction under this section, the court may order the person to perform community service. The court shall set the number of hours of service under this subsection.
(f) For the purposes of this section:
(1) a highway is considered to have separate roadways only if the highway has roadways separated by an intervening space on which operation of vehicles is not permitted, a physical barrier, or a clearly indicated dividing section constructed to impede vehicular traffic; and
(2) a highway is not considered to have separate roadways if the highway has roadways separated only by a left turn lane.