Defensive Driving and Passing a School Bus in Texas
So you’ve been given a citation for passing a school bus. Now what? The Texas Transportation Code outlines clear rules for drivers operating near buses carrying children to and from school.
Typically, a driver is not eligible to dismiss or defer citations involving a school bus (or school zones in general) through a Texas defensive driving online course. Exceptions to this rule are rare, although they do exist, such as petitioning a judge for special dispensation based on the circumstances at the time. Your best option, however, is to secure legal representation well in advance of your court appearance.
Accidents in school zones and/or involving school buses are considered highly likely to result in injury. Unlike other forms of citation, such as speeding, passing a school bus in Texas mandates a court appearance and can result in more serious charges.
While moving violations typically cost from $150 to $250 per incident, fines in Texas for passing a school bus range from $550 to $700 for a first offense, add as many as 5 points to your record, and cannot be dismissed. To contrast that, a general speeding ticket typically results in 2 points and can easily be dismissed through a Texas defensive driving online course.
What Are the Rules about Passing a School Bus in Texas?
According to the Texas Transportation Code, the following rules apply when passing a school bus.
- A vehicle may proceed past a school bus only if one of three conditions occurs:
- (a) The school bus driver motions for the driver to proceed, and there is no obstruction or risk of injury present;
- (b) The school bus resumes motion from a stopped position in which the stop indicators were flashing;
- (c) The flashing indicators on the bus have been turned off.
- Drivers on the opposing side of a separated (median) road or highway are not required to stop.
Should You Fight a School Zone Ticket?
To state the obvious, your best option is not to find yourself in this situation in the first place. School-zone and bus-related citations are particularly hard to fight and win because of the implied risk to children.
However, if a driver has sufficient time, motivation, and resources, the driver may choose to fight the ticket in court. There are a number of factors to consider that may enable drivers to defer, reduce, or even “beat” the citation. For example, the bus driver is required to show up in court for the citation to stick, and the distance at which the school bus driver activated the flashing stop indicators is relevant as well. However, as stated earlier, the best chance a driver has when fighting a ticket in court is to seek legal assistance early in the process.
Note: If you are unable to pay the fines or can show reasonable financial duress, the court can assign you to complete community service instead.
Avoiding a Bad Situation
Drivers who are unclear regarding the rules about driving near school buses or in school zones are encouraged to attend a Texas defensive driving online course to relearn the rules of the road. Driving is one of the few activities that a person undertakes with high frequency that involves serious consequences for being in the wrong while doing so. You are encouraged to take a state-approved driver safety course early and often to maintain a solid understanding of the rules of the road.