Traffic cops clamp down on school-zone speeders

It’s not because they like writing tickets, police officers frown. Find out why – if you speed through a school zone – you’re likely to drive away with a huge fine …

In the David Douglas School District, at Menlo Park School on NE Glisan Street, crowds of parents and kids head to school on the first day of the school year.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Now that summer vacations are over, and school is back in session, it’s time to heed those 20 mph school speed zones.

That’s the message Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Lt. Eric Schober says their officers are trying to send – by way of a “school safety mission” now in full swing.

For about two weeks, Schober reports, the Bureau’s Traffic Division has been teaming up with East Precinct officers, and the Transit Police Division and Youth Services Division, in an effort to curb speeding through school zones around Portland Public, David Douglas, and Parkrose Schools.

Across the street from the school, officers use “radar guns” to identify speeders in need of a reminder to slow down, now that school is back in session.

“In school zones, there are younger children who may not be as cautions or have the sense of danger that cars and trucks present,” Schober says. “Because of this, we want drivers to slow down – and to look out for kids – when they’re near a school.”

They aren’t conducting the mission – putting out teams of motorcycle and patrol car officers to measure speed and write tickets – to raise revenue, we learned – even though fines can top $700 per violation.

“During the summer, drivers get in the habit traveling at posted roadway speeds. It’s easy to forget that school is now in session and it is, once again, time to slow down. Seeing our officers on patrol seems to be fairly effective way to get drivers’ attention.”

After spotting a driver suspected of driving too fast through the school zone, this Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division officer rolls out to issue what could be an expensive ticket.

As the Police Bureau’s Public Information Officer, Lt. Robert King commented, “One of the more shocking discoveries is the risk of death for a pedestrian hit at 30 mph, skyrockets to 75% – that’s a speed that some drivers may dismiss as ‘just 10 over’ the school zone speed limit.”

Schober agreed, and added, “Danger increases with speed, due to the ‘reaction time’ of a driver to an ‘emerging situation’ – one like a child running into the road. At higher speeds, a driver has much shorter reaction time. And, faster driving induces ‘tunnel vision’ where one tends to look farther ahead, down the road. By driving more slowly, one tends to have better peripheral vision, and may see that running child out of the corner of the eye.”

The legal speed on this stretch of N.E. Glisan Street may be 40 mph during the summer – but as one driver is soon to be reminded by this officer – the speed limit is only 20 mph when the school-zone lights are flashing.

In addition to stepping up enforcement of traffic laws in school zones, bus zones, and crosswalks, the cops are also looking for those who violate parking restrictions in and around school zones – and school bus red-flashing-light violations.

According to Oregon law, the speed limit in schools zones is 20 mph on school days from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. – or anytime school zone lights are flashing. Speed zone laws apply to all modes of transportation: Cars, commercial trucking, and even bicycles.

So, drive carefully, avoid a big fine – and perhaps also save a young life by driving attentively.

Once again, it’s time to heed the school zone speed limit signs.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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