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Police to be present during school start

Motorists have noticed an increase in pedestrian traffic near area schools as fall sports seasons have already begun. Next week will also include the formal start of school further increasing the number of children walking and playing at or near the schools. Drivers should be aware of the need to adjust their driving behaviors and slow down within the school zones.

School zones are clearly marked with signs indicating the start and end of the school zone. If a driver does not see a sign they would be safe to assume roadways adjacent to school property are school zones. The engineers at Public Works may also designate pedestrian crossing areas along routes to schools as school zones and post additional signage. Flashing lights and driver feedback boards indicating a vehicle's speed may have been added near some schools to draw extra attention to the hazards present.

Three common violations occur near schools. The first and most often seen is speeding. The school zone speed limit is in affect when a vehicle is passing a school which is in session and when children are present, including going to or leaving school during opening or closing hours. When children are present shall be defined to mean whenever one or more children are on the roadway, sidewalk, pathway, road shoulder, in front of school buildings, or on adjacent school grounds. This definition applies to children present on the same side of the street as the school building, as well as across the street from the school building in any direction within the marked school zone.

For a violation of a school zone speed limit fees for a noncriminal disposition are forty dollars for one through ten miles per hour over the posted speed; and forty dollars, plus one dollar for each additional mile per hour over ten miles per hour over the limit unless a greater fee would be applicable when calculating the amount using the standard fee schedule. Doing the math, if you drive through a 15 mph school zone at the normal 25 mph the violation will cost you $40.

The other two violations are failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk and failure to use child restraints. By the easiest explanation a motorist must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian at a marked cross walk when the pedestrian steps from the curb. Failure to do so can cost you a fee of $20.

Failure to use proper child restraints is also a $20 fee and is a primary enforcement law. Primary enforcement means an officer may stop a driver for that violation alone. Failure to wear the proper restraints is applicable to all passengers including the driver if that person is under the age of 18.

One other unsafe act that is seen predominately around the middle school and each of the elementary schools is parents stopping in the lane of traffic to allow their younger children to get out in the middle of the roadway. Doing so can subject the driver to a $20 fee for impeding traffic or improper discharge of a passenger. The unexpected appearance of a child in the roadway can also be shocking to other drivers and needlessly places the child in grave danger.

The West Fargo Police Department will again be active in and around the school zones conducting enforcement activities throughout the school year.

Slow down; be alert and void unsafe behaviors.