AUSTIN - About 22,000 students in Austin take the school bus daily, and as part of National School Bus Safety Week, more eyes will be on drivers.
The Department of Public Safety is teaming up with district police to ensure those behind the wheel are following the law.
"Motorists should always be alert and practice safe driving habits when traveling near school buses or anywhere school children gather, including bus stops," said DPS Director Steven McCraw. "Texas parents can rest assured that DPS will not tolerate those who recklessly endanger children by ignoring the law."
Austin Independent School District has over 500 school buses that operate throughout the city, and with the police department issuing nearly 12,000 citations in 2016, the district implemented a bus-stop arm camera program.
"Because we don't want any child getting hurt, we don't want any citizen to get hurt. And that's why we want to make sure we have this awareness,” Austin ISD's Interim Police Chief Chris Evoy said. "If we need to keep reminding people, let’s do that. Let’s have them understand,” he said.
Chief Evoy says the latest numbers for this program shows a slight dip in tickets, about 141 fewer.
"The whole purpose of this program is to -- as the years progress -- that we have a decrease in violations."
In Texas, if you're on a road with no center divider or median you must stop, no matter which side of the road you're on. The same goes for a road with a center turn lane separating traffic, both sides must stop. However, if there's a median or divider between lanes of traffic, you do not have to stop, if you're on the opposite side of the bus.
But Chief Evoy urges drivers to still be aware.
If you are ticketed for passing a school bus, you can pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000 depending on the agency that stops you, and your history of the violations.
AISD also reminds drivers to never use handheld devices while driving and to avoid following too closely behind other cars or following the driver’s actions.
“I’ve seen that so many times. If that person isn’t stopping, you need to stop [when school buses stop],” Chief Evoy added.
AISD Police say their mission is to help keep students safe, but those behind the wheel need to do their part, too. The district is currently looking to add new members to their police department as well as fill transportation positions.
To learn more about the bus-stop arm camera program or district needs, tap here.
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