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Slow Down: School Zone Safety Day stops drivers speeding through school zones

Syringa Elementary students had some extra help getting to school safely on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, the fear of a child being hit by a speeding car while walking to school is all too real. That’s why Gov. Brad Little proclaimed Sept. 17 as Idaho School Zone Safety Day in order to encourage drivers to be more cautious in school zones.

AAA, the Idaho Transportation Department and 26 law enforcement agencies throughout the Gem State have partnered together to raise awareness about speeding in school zones.

“We’re grateful that the governor has helped to call attention to this important issue,” said AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde. “Every year, tragedy strikes in school zones across the country, as inexperienced young pedestrians interact with speeding or distracted drivers. We want to keep it from happening in Idaho.”

The Pocatello Police Department had extra officers at Syringa to monitor drivers and emphasize the school zone speed limits. Within less than an hour, officers had pulled over and ticketed at least five drivers for speeding on Hiline Road. One driver was clocked at 37 miles per hour, and couldn’t be stopped because of how fast they were going.

“We had one officer that was out here with a handheld radar, and then we had officers north and south of the school. That officer was identifying violators and then calling them out, and the other officers were pulling them over,” said Sgt. Scott Matson of Pocatello PD.

Syringa principal, Rebecca Bullock, said schools do what they can to keep kids safe: Crossing guards and supervisors help get kids to and from school. They also try to educate students on the safest way to walk home.

But schools can only do so much if people are driving recklessly through school zones.

“Kids will not be paying attention. Sometimes they’re hungry: we start our breakfast time at 8 o’clock, and they’re running actually, they’re not paying attention to the actual cross walk,” Bullock said.

Matson said he wishes police could be in school zones at all times, but that isn’t always realistic.

“We try to have officers in all the school zones, but on top of doing traffic enforcement, they’re also responding to calls and stuff. So, when officers are able to, they’ll come into a school zone, and they will run traffic enforcement,” Matson said.

Tips for parents:

Children who are walking to school or getting dropped off should never dart between cars. Parents should remind them to always use a crosswalk if one is available, and make sure that hoods, hats and headphones don’t prevent them from seeing or hearing approaching vehicles as they cross. Children also need to wear bright or reflective clothing if they’ll be walking in the dark.

Tips for drivers:

Drivers should strictly observe signs, flashing lights, and signals from crossing guards. Never speed or drive distracted in a school zone or residential neighborhood, and never overtake a stopped bus with flashing lights – it’s dangerous and illegal. If possible, take a route that avoids school zones altogether.

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