COLORADO SPRINGS — As we rebound from the pandemic school zones are again active with students coming and going in the mornings and afternoons. Police officers and crossing guards in Colorado Springs say something needs to change before someone gets hurt because distractions and speed are major concerns in these areas right now.
School resource officers and crossing guards in Colorado Springs say they're nervous about some of the bad driving habits they are seeing in school zones as students have returned to school in person after a lengthy period away from campus during the pandemic. Some of the concerns are distracted driving, unsafe drop off locations, speeding, and even students not paying attention. Distracted walking is a common problem in traffic filled school zones.
"The dangers are absolutely real. We do have kids that are struck by cars and when they are it can be catastrophic," said Sgt. Pam Farmer of the Colorado Springs Police Department.
News 5 spoke with motorcycle officer Gerard Bouwmans who is working to crack down on the bad habits being reported in and around school zones in Colorado Springs. He says in most situations drivers just aren't paying attention.
"Prior to doing any enforcement I always make sure that those signs are clearly visible and they are active and I would say the majority of drivers say what school zone? They are surprised they just went through a school zone. The signs are pretty big. They are bigger than a speed limit sign. They do have extra coloring to them sometimes and yellow flashing lights above them," said Bouwmans.
In recent days speed enforcement in Colorado Springs has revealed some examples of just how fast people are driving through areas near schools. A CSPD officer doing speed enforcement near 115 and Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard cited 10 drivers for speeding, including one going 55 mph through a school zone.
Colorado Springs police officers have been busy cracking down on bad habits in school zones. In both 2019 and 2020 officers wrote more than 600 tickets in school zones. Last year the police department says there were two incidents where someone walking in a school zone was hit by a car. Officers tell News 5 these kinds of tickets are serious.
2019: 662 School Zone Tickets
2020: 631 School Zome Tickets, two pedestrian crashes
"A school zone ticket is going to sting a little bit more. It's $20 per mile per hour over. The fines are doubled and there is a mandatory court appearance. So, you're going to have to find time to take off of work which might financially impact people a little bit more. They are going to have to go and talk to the prosecutor and maybe appear before a judge to explain their actions," said Bouwmans.
According to the Transportation Research Board, every year 100 children nationwide are killed going to and from school in school zone incidents. And another 25,000 are injured. Research also suggests 1 in 3 parents are engaged in risky behavior while in school zones. That includes speeding, texting and driving and parking in unsafe drop off locations.
Some advice to help make school zones safer is to become familiar with the schools zones in your area and that you might pass through on a regular basis. Officers say school zones are typically active when school is in session between 7 a.m and 9 a.m. in the morning and between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the afternoon.