AUSTIN (KXAN) — As students get back to in-person learning, many are walking or riding the bus to school. The opened schools are adding to the extra traffic we’re starting to see on the roads.
At present, traffic is back to 80% of what it was in mid-February before the pandemic and it will continue to increase as more schools and businesses reopen. That’s why the Texas Department of Transportation and Austin Independent School District officials are warning drivers to slow down and pay attention.
“You can always get to your destination, but we can’t return to a situation after we’ve injured someone,” said AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde.
TxDOT’s ongoing “Be Safe. Drive Smart” campaign aims to prevent crashes by reminding drivers and parents in school zones and bus stops to stay vigilant. Transportation officials said drivers not paying attention or speeding are some of the common causes of crashes.
“We know that people get in a hurry and they’re not paying attention and you know the school buses are carrying precious cargo,” said TxDOT spokesperson Diann Hodges.
In May, Austin Police reported a higher number of deadly crashes and high speeds. As kids return to school, TxDOT and AISD officials say speeding drivers are a concern.
“Now we are having a lot more traffic and it’s yellow traffic, yellow school buses that are out there, and we need drivers to give them their space,” Hodges said.
Last year, TxDOT officials said there were nearly 2,500 crashes across the state involving school buses — resulting in five deaths.
“Right here in our Austin district we had 31 crashes involving school buses,” Hodges added.
Nearly 800 school zones crashes took place in 2019, accounting for one death and 12 serious injuries.
“One student is one student too many that we certainly don’t want anyone to end up injured or worse, so please just slow down,” Elizalde said.