Distracted driving is a safety epidemic that affects every state in the U.S. It’s especially dangerous when drivers are near pedestrians, including children. To help combat the problem in Texas, the state first restricted the usage of cell phones in 2009. However, that restriction was later broadened, and it’s now illegal for drivers to use non-handsfree cell phones while passing through school zones.

School zones are commonplace throughout the state, and if you drive through one, even briefly, you could be ticketed if you’re using a cell phone without a handsfree device. However, studies show that even handsfree devices can still be distracting to drivers. That’s why it’s important to avoid distractions as much as possible when you’re behind the wheel. In addition to preventing you from receiving an expensive citation (up to $200), it also significantly cuts down on your risks of being involved in an accident.

School Zone Safety Tips

August is back to school month, and that means school zones will be active again throughout Texas. Whether you’re driving through them as part of your commute or dropping off/picking up your children, it’s essential to know and follow these school zone safety tips:

· Watch crossing guards to know who has the right of way—In school zones, crossing guards have the final say on who gets to go and when. Even if you’re at a four-way stop or a traffic light, the crossing guard dictates who can enter the intersection or turn—not the order you arrived at the intersection or whether the light is green, yellow, or red. Keep an eye on the crossing guard after coming to a complete stop, and don’t go anywhere until he or she waves you through.

· Speed limits are significantly reduced in active school zones—One of the only driving behaviors just as, if not more, dangerous than driving while distracted is speeding. Exceeding the speed limit is especially dangerous when pedestrians are nearby. When you’re approaching a school zone, you’ll see a speed limit sign with flashing lights. Speeding in a school zone can result in bigger fines than usual, so watch your speed.

· Passing school buses that are loading or unloading is illegal—School zones aren’t just full of students crossing the street and parents dropping off and picking up their children. They also may be the location of bus stops where child board and exit school buses. If you’re behind a school bus that stops and extends a retractable stop sign or flashes its lights, it means it’s picking up or dropping off—and passing it at that point is against the law.

If your children walk, ride the bus, or get dropped off at school, make sure they’re aware of these safety tips:

· Cross only at intersections—Crossing the street outside of intersections puts all pedestrians in danger, especially children.

· Walk on sidewalks when they’re available—Sidewalks are the safest place to be when walking near traffic. Ideally, pedestrians should walk against the flow of traffic.

· Make eye contact with drivers and the bus driver before crossing the street—While crosswalks are safer than other places on the road for crossing the street, they aren’t accident-proof. Making eye contact with drivers can help children reduce their risks.

· Avoid electronic devices—Distractions aren’t just dangerous for drivers—they can also be dangerous for pedestrians. Make sure your children keep their eyes focused on the road ahead and their ears free from headphones and earbuds while they’re walking to and from school.

School Zone Car Accident? We Want to Help.

At the Law Office of Joel A. Levine, we know that despite increased traffic enforcement laws and regulations, school zones can pose unique dangers to students, drivers, and others. Reduced speed limits and stricter requirements concerning cell phone usage have helped make school zones safer places for everyone, but there’s always a risk of serious accidents occurring—especially when drivers are negligent.

If you or someone you love was injured in a school zone accident, our Austin car accident lawyers want to speak with you. Both auto accidents and pedestrian accidents can result in serious injuries, including head injuries, brain injuries, broken bones, paralysis, and more. The outcomes of school zone accidents can be particularly devastating for small children who are struck by vehicles.

Our legal team knows what you’re going through, and it’s our goal to help you recover maximum compensation for your or your loved one’s injuries, medical bills, and other accident-related expenses. Get a free car accident case evaluation today—we’ll review your claim and begin working to help you get the money you deserve right away.