Editorial

Another school year began Thursday, and like clockwork, the annual chorus of sighs from about 14,000 Victoria students drifted across the city.

Students began their morning rituals again, waking up early and heading to class.

Drivers noticed more vehicles on the streets, more pedestrians on the sidewalks and more traffic congestion near the schools.

Also on cue was the Victoria Police Department urging all drivers to be patient on the road and to follow school zone traffic laws.

“We will have some more patrol officers for the first two weeks or so of the school year,” said David Brogger, a spokesman for the police department. “Our patrol officers have already begun school zone patrolling this week for the start of private schools.”

It’s a good idea for drivers to take a few minutes to remember the rules of the road because violating them can lead to an unsympathetic fine.

School zones are active in the morning from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. VISD elementary schools begin at 8 a.m.; middle schools start at 8:15 a.m.; and high schools begin at 7:45 a.m. After-school zones vary between 3 and 4 p.m. for elementary schools and 3:20 to 4:20 p.m. for middle schools.

Last year, there were 765 traffic crashes in Texas school zones, resulting in one death and 15 serious injuries, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The most common causes for these crashes were failure to control speed, driver inattention and failure to yield the right of way when turning into a private drive or at a stop sign.

Last year, there were 2,357 traffic crashes involving school buses across Texas, which resulted in five fatalities and 42 serious injuries, according to TxDOT. Speed and driver inattention also were the top factors in those crashes.

This year, the Victoria Police Department is introducing a new campaign to promote safety near school buses that stop to pick up or drop off students. The program is called “Lights On, Lamps On,” and it asks drivers to turn on their vehicle hazard lights when they see a school bus with lights flashing and its stop sign deployed.

By turning on vehicle hazard lights, other drivers will know that there is a school bus and children nearby.

“Though the campaign isn’t a law, it is to help drivers be more aware of school buses and children getting on or off the bus,” Brogger said.

To see a demonstration of how this helpful program works, visit the police department’s Facebook page.

Everyone behind a wheel must be patient and alert, especially whenever they are near a school.

They must avoid distractions, specifically cellphones, and they must adhere to all speed limits, especially in school zones.

The extra time that drivers take to respect the laws concerning those school zones and school buses will keep students safe and could even save a life.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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