AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas students are headed back to school, and you’ll see more school buses along your commute.

It’s a good time to remind drivers of Texas law when driving around school buses; breaking the law could cost you.

It’s illegal to pass a school bus loading or unloading kids. If you pass the bus, it could lead to a fine from $300 to more than $1,200.

Stop arm camera violation
Robert Salazar’s stop arm camera violation (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)

Texas law states drivers must stop when a school bus extends its stop sign or turns on its flashing red lights. Some school districts have cameras on bus stop arms to enforce the law.

Since the camera program launched in 2016 at Austin Independent School District, there have been thousands of violations. The money from the violations goes into the general fund. For every $300 violation, the district keeps 40% with the camera vendor getting 60%.

  • 2016 – 12,936 violations
  • 2017 – 17,244 violations
  • 2018 – 15,046 violations
  • 2019 – 12,770 violations
  • 2020 – 3,219 violations
  • 2021 – 6,595 violations
  • 2022 – 5,715 violations to date

If you see a bus is stopped, drivers traveling on either side of the road must stop.

School bus stop example. (Figure/KXAN Graphics)
School bus stop example. (Figure/KXAN Graphics)

For a divided highway, if the roadway is separated by an unpaved or barrier median, drivers in the opposite lane of the bus do not have to stop for the school bus. A roadway is not considered separated by left-turn lanes only, so drivers must stop for school buses in that case.

Drivers can only pass a school if the flashing lights are no longer activated:

  • Yellow flashing: about to stop or unload students
  • Red flashing: bus is stopped, no passing
  • Stop sign on side of bus, no passing permitted

The Texas Department of Transportation is urging drivers to stay focused and drive safe in and around school zones.

  • Be aware of traffic patterns around schools, some may have changed since the last school year.
  • Obey school zone speed limit signs. Traffic fines increase in school zones.
  • Drop off and pick up your children in your school’s designated areas, not the middle of the street.
  • Watch for children who might dart across the street or between vehicles.