COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The message to motorists on local roads in the coming days is 'slow down,' according to safety officials. Back to school means back to blinking lights in many areas, and officers with the Columbia Police Department say they plan to make motorists aware of the need to reduce their speed starting this week.
"We're going to try and spend some time conducting enforcement in those school zone areas a couple days before school starts towards the end of this week," said Sergeant Derek Miller with the Columbia Police Department's Traffic Safety Unit. "Not enforcing the 25 mph zone, but just letting people see us and be aware that we are out there trying to change their behavior and get them back in that groove.
Officers say they'll be in school zones all over Columbia. On Tuesday, Sgt. Miller was in the median on Rosewood Drive near Etiwan Avenue.
"With my car here in the median area, everybody sees me and they start to slow down," said Miller. "So the presence makes a huge difference."
The intersection of Etiwan Avenue and Rosewood Drive is on the corner of A.C. Moore Elementary School. Officers say their biggest concern is making sure traffic slows as empty sidewalks transform into pathways filled with students.
"Rosewood Drive is a 35 mph speed zone during normal times, but whenever school's in, the school zone speed is reduced down to 25," said Sgt. Miller. "It's identified by those flashing signs letting you know that you are in a school zone, and also they'll be signs letting you know that you've exited a school zone by saying, 'end of school zone.'"
According to Sgt. Miller there are 18 elementary school zones in Columbia alone. He says while there are officers dedicated to all school zones throughout the year, they see elementary schools as their priority.
"We have smaller children, and smaller children don't pay as much attention as older children do, so we try to be in those areas to make it as safe as possible for those young kids going to school," said Miller.
Sgt. Miller says that school zones in Columbia generally run in the mornings from 6:45 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. and then again in the afternoons from 1:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. He adds you can expect to see officers enforcing the speed limit in those zones throughout the day.
"The big message is slow down," said Sgt. Miller. "Be aware of your surroundings… please be on the lookout for [children] because they're excited about going to school. They're trying to get to school, and we just want them to get there safely."
Sgt. Miller says CPD uses the state statutes for speeding fines as their guidelines for writing tickets in school zones. "The fine amounts do not change, they all stay the same as if you were to get a ticket anywhere else in the city. We don't have a special school zone ticket per se, we just follow the guidelines set by the state as far as the 1-10 miles per hour over the speed limit, 11-15mph… and use those fines," said Miller.
If you live outside of Columbia, school zone times could vary based on your local school schedule. But officers add the safety message and the effort to patrol the area stays the same.
"It's a consistent effort that we put together to try to be in those areas and make that area as safe as we can for those kids going to school," said Miller.
School starts back in Columbia on Monday, August 20th.