Local agencies enforcing schools zones against increasing violations, issues

MEDFORD, Ore.- With all this wet weather, it’s important you drive carefully. But that applies even more so to school zones, where local agencies are continuing to crack down on issues.

“We do that through enforcement operations, and we’ve even had some operations where we only did warnings unless we came across some real egregious violations,” said Medford Police Traffic Sergeant Steve Furst. He says the department tries to start with awareness through social media and news releases. But it often comes down to enforcement on the roads, which includes both stationed officers and camera vans.

“We use them in school zones and we use them in other areas where there are reports of high traffic speed violations,” Furst said of the vans.

Josh Jones is one of the traffic officers on the look-out. He says these days catching school zone violators is like fish in a barrel.

“Give me about an hour and I probably stopped seven, eight cars,” he said, while being stationed near North Medford High School. Jones says around high schools, many violations come from students who are newer drivers, but it often just comes down to paying attention no matter the driver’s age.

“Typical excuses are ‘I didn’t see the school zones’. You will go through two signs in the school zone- big, green, neon signs- so I think its inattention to driving,” Jones said. However, he also added that a few people are honest about speeding when stopped.

As a reminder, signs depicting two people crossing the road will tell you a school zone is approaching, and will often mention that fines increase in these areas. Different white and greens signs with the posted 20 MPH speed limit and details on when the zone is in effect mark the start of these areas. Crosswalk enforcement is just as important, and it’s the reason school zones drop to 20 miles per hour.

“It takes several hundred feet to stop if you’re going 35. By that time you might have hit a student crossing the walkway,” Officer Jones explained. Speeding fines in school zones are also doubled, and could total close to $900, according to ODOT.

Ashland police are facing a different problem these days: congestion. Chief Tighe O’Meara says it’s most common during school pickup and drop-off, but recent construction can also contribute.

“There are some other problem areas, but its just due to the volume of traffic in the areas and not due to any particular illegal, unsafe behavior,” he said. APD is making sure people stop for school buses, something Shasta County Sheriffs dedicated a whole day to doing recently. It says it stopped multiple people who were speeding by buses.

“I even follow them in my unmarked car to make sure everyone is stopping and that the kids are safe.” Chief O’Meara said. He reminds everyone that rushing through a school zone only saves you a few moments, and could have terrible consequences beyond a fine.

“Hitting somebody, hitting a kid that’s walking to school, getting into a crash in a school zone, that’s infinitively worse than getting a ticket,” he said.

Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.
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