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Texas School Zones

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.

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