In Collin County, Wednesday is a big day for thousands of families.
Allen, Frisco and Plano school districts are going back to class on the same day. That’s over 136,000 students in total.
With so many schools starting back on the same day, that means a lot of school buses will be on the road, crossing guards will be working intersections, and kids will be walking to school.
It should go without saying, people should drive carefully around schools and buses.
But police say unfortunately, a lot of people usually get too comfortable in their routines over the summer and forget about the added need for safety at the start of school.
“At the start of the school year, everybody’s excited. Kids are excited to go back to school, parents are excited for the next step that their kids are going to take. And so sometimes I think people just forget about the safety aspect of it ,” said Officer Omar Landrum with the Plano Police traffic unit.
He has seen his fair share of dangerous drivers in his career.
“Speeding is probably one of the craziest things. Having someone drive through the school zone, going 20 miles over the regular speed,” he said.
He said one driver was going 60 miles per hour in a school zone.
“Just completely unaware, even when I stopped them. They had no idea how fast they’re traveling, what the speed limit was, or even the fact that it is a school zone,” he said.
Officer Landrum, with the help of Plano ISD’s transportation department, gave NBC 5 a ‘crash course’ in safe driving this school year. Click the video player above to watch.
When it comes to school buses, drivers should be on alert if they ever see yellow lights start flashing along the upper panels of the bus.
“So if the yellow lights started flashing, that’s like the caution to let you know to hate be prepared to either stop or slow down. Because this bus is about to make a stop,” said Landrum.
If you are not in a position to stop, you can pass safely around the bus at the time to get out of the way. But once you see red lights flashing and stop signs deploy from the side of the bus, every driver must stop.
“You cannot pass this bus until the stop signs and lights go off,” said Landrum.
If you do pass a bus, you could get a ticket and fine of at least $500 in Texas.
There’s only one exception: If you’re on a road that’s divided with a median, traffic coming in the opposite direction on the other side of that divide doesn’t have to stop. However, if it’s multi-lane with no barrier, everyone has to stop their vehicle.
No matter where you’re driving, it’s also important to keep an eye out for kids as families adjust to going back to school over the next few weeks.
“Kids do what kids do. You’ll have a kid that will get off that bus and they’ll go around the front of it and just take off running,” Landrum warned.
Don’t forget to slow down in school zones and pay attention to flashing yellow lights and signs when driving in the morning and afternoon. Remember, not every school zone is going to have flashing lights.
The law says you can’t text, check your email or even talk on the phone while driving through the school zone. However, you can talk on the phone only if you are using hands-free device such as Bluetooth.
In a recent AAA back-to-school survey, nearly 40 percent of drivers admitted to speeding in an active school zone. Moreover, 32% admitted to using their cell phones while driving in an active school zone.
Still, Landrum worries about the distractions drivers still experience in the car besides the cellphone.
“It’s not really about having an object in your hand, up to your head. It’s more about your mindset if you’re not paying attention to the roadway,” he said. “There are some people who sit in a car and talk with somebody, and it could be a person sitting next to them that they’re having a conversation with – and completely lose track of where they’re driving. It’s more about divided attention.”
By law, drivers will need to stop for crossing guards, too.
“Everybody plays a role, right? Whether it’s a parent dropping the kid off, or just somebody’s passing through the neighborhood. Even the kids even play a role,” Landrum said.
Children are usually instructed to stay seated until the bus comes to stop and to not dart in front of the bus when getting off. Police say now is a good time for parents to talk with their kids and teenagers about being extra careful around the roadways and sidewalks.
“People have to keep their head on a swivel – watch out for the kids, sometimes they take off and run. They’re excited for different things. They’re not paying attention. So as adults, we have to take the extra step to make sure the area is safe for them,” Landrum said.
He also hopes busy drivers will take a moment to slow down, calm down and think about the lives they could change.
“Everybody has a role that they can play in our kids having a successful school year,” he said. “Let’s start that off by them getting to school safely.”