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KCSO prepares to nab school zone speeders

Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies (from left) Dave Green, Darren Andersson and Sgt. Mike Merrill will be patrolling school zones throughout unincorporated Kitsap County starting Wednesday. - Photo by Kassie Korich
Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies (from left) Dave Green, Darren Andersson and Sgt. Mike Merrill will be patrolling school zones throughout unincorporated Kitsap County starting Wednesday.
— image credit: Photo by Kassie Korich

Teachers are not the only ones preparing back-to-school activities.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies will be out in full force next week and throughout the school year, heavily patrolling school zones to keep children and motorists safe.

“We’re going to patrol as heavily as we have in the past,” said Sgt. Mike Merrill. “We’ll be out there.”

Merrill said three to four deputies will specifically focus on monitoring the 20 mph school zones Wednesday-Friday, while other deputies will lend a hand when their schedule allows it.

Deputies will use radar guns and other speed measuring devices to watch motorists’ speeds. People traveling 1-5 mph over the posted speed limit will get a $189 ticket. Motorists who travel more than 35 mph above the 20 mph school zone speed limit can receive a $784 ticket.

“It always helps,” Merrill said. “People see us out there and they slow down.”

Studies show that “a child has an 80 to 90 percent rate of survival if struck by a car traveling 20 mph, as opposed to a 90 percent chance of death if the car is traveling only five to 10 miles an hour faster,” according to a news release.

“It’s a safer environment for the kids,” Merrill said.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) completed a study and discovered that flashing yellow beacon lights are one of the most effective tools to reduce motorists’ speeds in school zones.

“That is why the Traffic Safety Commission this summer approved and granted $1.3 million to 39 agencies statewide to make improvements to the elementary schools’ zones in their local districts,” said Lowell Porter, director of the WTSC.

Kitsap County recently received a $153,000 grant from WTSC for 25 pairs of flashing lights to be placed near local elementary schools. This year’s WTSC grants will provide safety equipment to nearly 200 elementary schools.

“On average, drivers traveled 5 to 7 miles per hour slower when the flashing yellow school zone lights were present, a small but crucial safety difference,” Porter said.

Flashing lights were placed along the Central Valley Road corridor near Fairview Junior High School, Woodlands and Cottonwood elementary schools a couple of years ago. The lights have “helped out considerably,” according to Merrill. The new flashing lights should be in place sometime this fall.

“Every elementary school in unincorporated Kitsap County will be getting flashing lights,” Merrill said.

The flashing yellow beacon lighting system includes:

• Yellow lighted beacons

• 20 mph speed limit signs mounted to poles and powered by solar or electrical energy

• Additional signs to ensure proper marking of a designated school zone

• Software to control the system

Studies show that children younger than the age of 13 have limited depth perception and may be unable to judge how far away an approaching vehicle is, whereas older children may be able to judge the distance more accurately and react more successfully, according to a news release.

“Hopefully the lights will just bring an awareness to everyone,” said Carolyn Pence, Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force coordinator.

Both Merrill and Pence hope the increased school zone patrols and flashing lights will help keep students and motorists safe.

“We just want to remind people to slow down in school zones and watch for buses and students,” Pence said.

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