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School Safety Means Steeper Fines For Speeders

By Tracy Fugere

Fargo, ND – It's back-to-school time again. And that means streets around schools are more congested when students are being dropped-off and picked-up. Fargo Law enforcement officers are spending extra time enforcing school zone regulations and giving out more fines in these areas.

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It?s three o?clock on a recent afternoon and children from Roosevelt Elementary in Fargo are dashing out of the school building like they?re running to a fire. The youngsters scramble about without a care in the world. Perhaps they have a few worries--like listening to their teacher and remembering to look both ways before crossing the street. Roosevelt Elementary School is located on a busy one-way street in north Fargo.

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Shirley Slusher is an adult volunteer who acts as a crossing guard for kids wanting to cross the busy 10th street.

"Their intention is to, as soon as that light turns, the kids want to run across and the cars try to slip through and that?s why we?re here."

Roosevelt Elementary School Principal Kim Colwell says the public needs to watch out for students and obey the 20-mile-an-hour speed limit in the school zones. Colwell says it?s not worth speeding and possibly hitting a child, something a driver would have to live with for the rest of their life.

"My first year we did have a first grader that was run over on 10th street going across the cross-walk after an after-school activity. The light was in the child?s favor and someone ran the stop light and ran her over. She?s a sixth grader this year and I kind of call her my miracle child. She was hit about 4:10 in the afternoon and was released from the hospital at 8:30 with no injuries." Colwell says there have been no reports of other accidents.

"You have got to watch the drivers behavior. That?s the purpose of the adult that?s on duty."

The Fargo Police Department does not break down how many speeding tickets are written in school zones, but police officials say complaints from the public usually lead them to particular schools with increased traffic problems.

Fargo Police Officer Sherri Arnold says drivers in school zones should watch for flashing yellow lights, slow down to 20 miles-an-hour, and always be on the look-out for children running or walking along the street and in between vehicles. She says it?s illegal to pass a school bus when it is stopped and its flashing lights are on and its stop arm is out.

"We write a lot of different kinds of tickets, but around the schools we want to concentrate on the schools because we don?t want any kids getting hurt. We do tend to go around the schools at the opening and closing when the flashing lights are on and we want to make sure people are paying attention. And if the presence of the squad car is what does it?that?s great. We want people to slow down and have no accidents."

Arnold says drivers just don?t pay attention to the flashing lights.

"With the school zones, our big violations are the speed limits. When we have flashing lights at the school zones or other areas where a speed limit may be reduced ? people don?t pay attention. They are driving on auto-pilot and they?re just going along and not paying attention to the signs. So they?re speeding, even though they might be going 25 in North Dakota, the speed limit drops to 20 in the school zones. You have to pay attention to what you?re doing when you?re driving."

Speeding in a Fargo school zone comes with a hefty price tag. For every mile over the posted speed limit ? it?s a ten-dollar fine. So if a driver is cruising at 30 miles per hour in a 20-mile an hour zone ? the driver will be fined 100-dollars.

Speeding fines in school zones vary across the state.