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The scariest roads and highways in East Texas aren’t those with sharp turns, wide curves, high bridges or even the narrow county roads.

The roads that scare me the most are those that pass in front of our local schools.

If you have ever driven through a busy school zone (and we all have) with flashing lights activated, you know what I mean. In the morning, parents are hurrying to drop off children and in the afternoons there is a rush to leave. Dozens of school buses are trying to maneuver through motorists. Some impatient parents even stop on the shoulder or in the middle of the road to let their child out of the car. In addition, there are students trying to safely cross the road and guards and school officials trying to direct traffic. To put it mildly, school zones are chaotic.

School officials, who have a big responsibility to administer a safe traffic control plan, can only do so much. That official must also keep an eye out for that one driver who might not see the stopped traffic or the child crossing the street. He has to watch for that one driver who might slide into another vehicle, a bus, or even skid into him. It’s a scary scenario, but one that could become reality any day.

TxDOT is committed to safety on every roadway. We monitor daily the 6,529.7 lane miles through the nine-county Lufkin District to help provide you with a good travel experience. Our local law enforcement is also committed to safety. It might not feel that way if you are one of those drivers who have ever been stopped in a school zone. You would think that with all the attention to safety, there would never be a crash in a school zone. But that would be wrong.

The truth is if every driver would be proactive and committed to safety, we would rarely see a crash or a speeder in a school zone. We would all remember that talking on the phone in a school zone is not only against the law, but it is distracting.  None of us ever want to be distracted from seeing that child cross the road, or that inexperienced teen driver leaving the high school. We want to always see that school official or law enforcement officer standing in the roadway directing traffic.

There are challenges to creating and maintaining a chaos-free school zone. But it should not be challenging to maintain a safe school zone, because that only requires a good traffic control plan and driver attention, alertness and patience. TxDOT studies and suggests the good traffic control plan to local schools, but we all have to provide the driver attention.

We all determine a safe school zone by our own driving choices. The safest school zone and the best traffic plan in the world won’t ever work if every driver doesn’t obey the law and make good choices when they drive past a school with activated school zone lights.  We can keep our school zones safe, because nobody likes driving on a scary road.