School zone speeders pay a hefty price

Don’t ignore the flashing yellow lights – or school speed zone signs – now that school is back in session. See what happens to scofflaws in too big a hurry, right here …

Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Officer Doug Gunderson here tracks the speed of vehicles passing by Menlo Park Elementary School using a LIDAR gun.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the next couple of weeks – now that school’s back in session – cops are out to catch and ticket drivers speeding through school zones.

It’s not that they’re mean spirited – instead, they’re trying to save kids’ lives.

“The flashing yellow lights mean ‘drop your speed to 20 mph and keep an eye out for the little ones going to school’,” says Sgt. Dan Liu, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct School Police Supervisor.

We’re talking with Liu in front of Menlo Park Elementary School on September 4. As we speak, most cars are slowing down for the school zone. “Going 20 mph gives drivers a lot more reaction time,” Liu explains. “And, the children may simply not be looking. They’re excited about going to school, and, not paying attention.”

However, other drivers seem oblivious to the flashing yellow “school zone” lights – and even seem to overlook the half-dozen police cruisers stopping speeders along NE Glisan Street.

We walk over and stand next to Traffic Division Officer Doug Gunderso, as he takes speed readings off his LIDAR gun. A medical transport van zips past at 38 mph; Gunderson radios ahead to a patrol car that stops the van. “I think this one will be cited, not warned,” Gunderson comments.

Officer Charles Lovell writes up a citation; and it isn’t for good driving. “We’ve got to slow drivers down around schools.” He says.

We go into the school to say hello to Brooke O’Neill, Menlo Park’s Principal. We ask her if she feels this special speed enforcement mission is important.

“All summer long, traffic goes 40 mph, or faster, along NE Glisan Street,” says O’Neill. “We need drivers to get back into the routine of going slowly when they pass the school, any time during the day. We want our kids to be safe, and we appreciate drivers slowing down – and watching out – for our children.”

Fines for speeding in a school zone could be as high as $206.00, for as little as eleven miles over the posted speed.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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