When school is in session, drivers approaching Texas schools may
encounter some special traffic hazards. First of all, large numbers of
children may be present, often walking to and from the school building
on foot. Secondly, at the beginning and end of the school day, the
streets surrounding the school are often clogged with school buses and
the cars of the students’ parents. Therefore, drivers need to
give Texas school zones special attention in order to drive
defensively. Also, there are special speed limits and traffic laws that
apply around school zones during these busy times of the day.
Texas speed limits
In Texas as in other states, speed limits are posted on every road
to advise you of the appropriate speed to drive. In many cases, Texas
speed limits match those that are set by the state in the
Transportation code, § 545.352. For example, the default state speed
limit inside a city or town is 30 miles per hour for a normal street
and 25 miles per hour in an alleyway. Outside urban districts, the
speed limit is 70 miles per hour on a numbered highway, and 60 miles
per hour on an unnumbered highway or any other type of rural road.
However, Texas law also gives the Texas Transportation Commission
and local counties and municipalities the right to alter these default
speed limits based on local needs and conditions. Usually, a reasonable
speed for the road is established based on an engineering and traffic
study that determines what speed feels reasonable and comfortable for
the majority of drivers. However, in the case of Texas school zones,
the speed can be reduced to a minimum of 15 miles an hour in certain
circumstances. Even on highways, a school speed limit is usually no
more than 35 miles per hour. If the regular speed limit is over 55
miles per hour or more, there has to a "buffer zone" to give people
time to slow down to 35 mph.
Fines for speeding in a school zone
Most drivers don't like to slow down for Texas school zones,
although they would probably feel differently if they actually got in
an accident and a child was hurt. So, in order to make sure that
drivers recognize the importance of obeying the school zone speed
limits, Texas has imposed increased fines and court costs on drivers
caught speeding in school zones. At the very least, there is an extra
$25 court cost added on to the cost of your ticket. This money is
collected and used to fund school crossing guard programs and other
programs related to child safety.
Other than the $25.00 court cost, fines for a Texas school zone
ticket can vary based on what city, county, or municipality you are
stopped in. For example, if you get caught speeding in a school
zone in Houston, fines start out at $215 for going 1-5 miles per hour
above the posted speed limit and go to $325 if you are going more than
30 miles per hour over. In San Antonio, the fines for speeding in a
school zone start at $206 for the first ten miles per hour over the
limit, and go up by $5.00 for each additional mile. In Austin, the
standard fine starts at $204 for 5 miles over and increases to reach
$326 if you are going more 30 miles per hour over.
Importance of child safety
No matter where you get stopped, speeding in a Texas school zone is
expensive. However, the life of a child is priceless, and that's
exactly what you are risking as you zip through a school zone. Children
are more vulnerable than adults to being hit by a car for a number of
different reasons. First, they can be less cautious than adults.
Second, they are shorter and smaller, making them harder to see from
behind the wheel of a car. Also, being smaller means that they are less
likely to survive a crash than an adult.
Slowing down in a school zone keeps children safe by reducing the
likelihood of a collision and also by reducing the force of impact if
there is a collision. The faster your vehicle is going, the longer it
takes for you to slow down and the less time a child has to get out of
your way. Also, if you were to get into an accident with a pedestrian,
lower speeds are less likely to be fatal than higher speeds. For
example, according to a brochure distributed by the National Safe Kids
Campaign entitled Child Pedestrians at Risk in America: a National
Survey of Speeding in School Zones, a pedestrian struck by a car going
20 miles per hour is only about 5 percent likely to die. If the vehicle
is going 30 miles per hour or more, however, the probability of death
jumps to 40 percent. Take that into consideration the next time you
decide to speed through a Texas school zone, and slow down. Whatever it
is you are hurrying to can wait. Child safety is more important.
School zone identifiers
Now you know why it's important to slow down in a Texas school zone.
But how do you know if you are in a school zone or not? There are
several different signs that indicate you are in a Texas school zone.
Traffic signs are the most common and obvious indicator. In many cases,
there are signs posted even before you get to the school zone to let
you know that you approaching it. You should also see a sign that says
"School Zone" and shows the appropriate speed limit and the hours that
the school zone is in effect. Signs are painted white and neon yellow
so that they are easily visible. Many signs are also equipped with
flashing lights that flash yellow whenever the school zone is in
effect. Most of the time, Texas school zone speed limits are only in
effect directly before and directly after the school day. However, if
you see the yellow lights flashing at other hours of the day, you
should still slow down. Texas school zone speed limits can apply to
extracurricular activities, too, if the lights are flashing.
Also, on some roads, the road itself is painted with the words
"School Zone" and the speed limit. This doesn't tell you when the
school zone speed limit is in effect, but it should alert you to keep
an eye out for children and to look for the road signs that indicate
when the reduced speed limit is required.
Other restrictions in school zones
Drivers should also be aware that some Texas municipalities restrict
the use of cell phones when school zones are in effect. The reason
behind this is simply that talking on a cell phone takes your attention
off of the road, which is where it should be, especially if there are
child pedestrians present. Texting or sending emails on a PDA is an
even worse distraction. Currently, Dallas, Hurst, Flower Mound and
several other small municipalities ban the use of cell phones in a
school zone. Whether or not you live in one of the areas, you should
still be responsible and pay attention to the road when you are in a
Texas school zone.