Follow CBSDFW.COM: Facebook | Twitter

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As students across the state kick off a new school year, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is offering back-to-school driving tips that they say will keep children safe and help drivers avoid tickets and fines.

As always, drivers are reminded to be attentive and exercise caution when in school zones. That may sound like something easily accomplished, but last year there were more than 650 major accidents that happened in Texas school zones.

In addition to paying attention and controlling your speed, TxDOT officials wants those behind the wheel to remember that you should always stop for flashing red lights on a school bus, regardless of which direction you’re headed. The only exception to this rule is if the bus is on the other side of a divided highway.

When behind a school bus, drivers should also be prepared to stop at all railroad crossings and be sure to watch for children who might dart into the street, while getting on or off the school bus.

Most people know that speeding in a school zone could result in a traffic ticket but did you know that those fines are usually double in school zones? They are. And some officials say the best policy is for drivers to turn of their phone, since the use of cell phones isn’t permitted in active school zones. Violators could ace a fine of up to $200.

Officials with MedStar Mobile Healthcare are also urging drivers to brush up on tips from the National Safety Council. When picking up or dropping off a child adults shouldn’t double-park or let children in or out of the vehicle across the street from the school.

In addition to adhering to all of the above precautions, drivers around high schools should also bear in mind that a good number of motorists around them could be newly licensed, less experienced teenage drivers.

For parents dropping their kids of at school, always be sure your u-turns are safe and legal after you let little Billy off at the curb. And make sure that curb you’re pulling over to is NOT reserved for buses or emergency vehicles.

At the end of the day, all we ask is that you be considerate and civil, have tolerance of other drivers and don’t rush your judgment when passing through school zones. Parents and kids across this great interstate-linked country thank you for it!

When behind the wheel drivers should also keep an eye out for children who are walking to school. Research by the National Safety Council says most children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are between 4 and 7 years old, and they’re walking. Some precautions to keep in mind for children on foot include:

  • Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn
  • Stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection
  • Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians

Parents can also help keep their children safe by educating them. Children walking to school should always be on the sidewalk, if one is available, and walk facing traffic. When crossing the street, children should stop and look left, right and left again to see if cars are coming and never run out in front of a parked car.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has even put together a Get To School (And Back Again) Safely board game. Click here to check it out and play.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)