EUGENE/SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Kids are headed back to school this week. It’s something they and their parents prepped for for weeks, but drivers need to prepare, too.
Eugene and Springfield police want to remind drivers to be patient, watch for pedestrians, follow the crosswalk law and stop for buses. But above all, you should watch your speeds in school zones.
“It’s gonna be hectic because you’re not used to packin’ up and getting the kids ready to go to school. So give yourself extra time, try to plan ahead, don’t be in a rush because that’s when we have our accidents, when you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, you don’t see the child shoot out across the street,” said Eugene Police Sgt. Jim Ball.
Eugene police have a seven-officer motorcycle team for traffic enforcement. Springfield police have at least five officers dedicated to school patrol and safety.
“The traffic team, the three officers, will also spend a lot of time in the school areas but so will patrol. So there can be a large number of officers focusing on the schools on any given day,” said Springfield Sgt. John Umenhofer.
Both say speed is the biggest demon officers fight each year.
“Speed is the biggest and distracted driving. People aren’t paying attention if you run a stop sign. You know a lot of places a lot of times you’ll get away with it as far as no one being injured, but in a school area when there’s all that foot traffic, running a stop sign could be a fatal event,” Umenhofer said.
If a child’s safety isn’t enough incentive to obey the 20-mile an hour speed limit, the expensive citation might be.
“They’re not gonna give you a lot of leeway in a speed zone. When it says 20, they want you to be going 20. And the fines increase. It can be a really expensive lesson,” Umenhofer said.
Drivers caught going anywhere from 11-20 miles over the speed limit in a school zone will be slapped with a double fine of up to $600.
“You know any time there’s a school in the area, just slow down to 20,” Ball said.
Last year, Springfield police handed out 10 citations. Six of those were in the fall months. This year they hope that number is closer to zero.