Officers remind motorists of school zones

With school starting Monday, the Craig Police Department is reminding residents to keep in mind the safety of the young pedestrians.

"We're specifically pointing out that we want everybody to obey all posted speed limits," said Craig Police Sgt. Bill Leonard.

The warning especially refers to 20-mph school zones where Leonard said speed limits will be "strictly enforced."

"Officers will be heavily patrolling school zones," Leonard said. "We will be doing some traffic blitzes. We will have two or three officers working at one school working traffic."

But officers working the school zones won't limit their scrutiny to traffic infractions. Leonard said police would look for other suspicious activity near schools.

"They're one of our main areas of concentration during the school year," Leonard said.

The added foot traffic of children walking to school brings up other issues, such as kidnapping. While Leonard noted the community is relatively safe, kidnapping incidents do occur, even in small communities. Precautions include instructing children to walk in groups, ride buses or carpool with other families.

"If it's a group of kids, I think that's appropriate," Leonard said.

Leonard said it makes him uneasy to see "very young children walking by themselves to school along busy roads or highways."

Also, the presence of children near roadways requires drivers to be more defensive.

"Young pedestrians don't always watch out for cars so you need to take the extra care and watch out for them," Leonard said.

Police encourage citizens to report speeding or careless driving incidents near school zones. If residents can get a license plate number and try to identify the driver as male or female, Leonard said that is enough to warrant a contact from police. While it may not result in a citation, it will help to get the message out that careless driving will not be tolerated.

Also, Leonard said police expect residents to obey laws regarding school buses. If cars pass a school bus while its red lights are activated, bus drivers are trained and required to report the incident.

"They will do everything they can to identify you and assist in the citation process," Leonard said.

Police often set up speed trailers on Finley Lane, which leads to the high school, "to remind drivers that there is a speed limit up through there and they need to obey that speed limit," Leonard said.

However, Leonard said he hopes all interactions between police and residents are positive ones. Even when police have to stop drivers for disobeying the law, Leonard said officers are encouraged to point out the good driving habits they may observe, like wearing seat belts.

Police will to continue the seat belt award program in which young drivers can be stopped and rewarded for wearing their seat belts.

It gives officers a chance to contact young drivers and compliment them and reward them with a free tank of gas or another one of the prizes donated by local businesses.

"That's a very successful program and a very positive program. Local businesses have been more than generous in that program," Leonard said.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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