Drivers and parents are being reminded to set good examples for their children and take extra safety precautions on the road as students head back to school.
Officers around the Tri-Cities will be conducting extra traffic enforcement around schools to make sure drivers aren't speeding through school zones, illegally passing buses and failing to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
The goal is not to ticket people around the schools but to ensure students get to and from school safely, officials say.
Drivers are urged to slow down, be patient and always be aware of what's going on around them -- especially for kids darting across the road.
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"Young kids don't have the cognitive skills to judge time and distance like you and I do," said Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin. "One hundred percent of the responsibility is on us as drivers."
The speed limit in school zones is 20 mph. Many have flashing lights to indicate when the reduced speed is in effect or specify the school zone speed limit applies when children are present.
"The key is slowing down before you enter the school zone and not speeding up before leaving the school zone," said Pasco police Traffic Officer Ryan Flanagan.
Drivers will know when they're out of the school zone by seeing the "school zone ends" sign, a new speed limit sign or checking to see if they've passed the flashing lights on the other side of the street for traffic going in the opposite direction.
School zone violation tickets cost more than a standard speeding ticket and can't be reduced by a judge in court, Lattin said.
The most common ticket for speeding in a school zone is for going 6 mph to 10 mph over, which means a $210 ticket. A standard speeding ticket for going 6 mph to 10 mph over costs $124.
Motorists also need to remember they have to stop if they're behind a school bus that has its flashing red lights on and the stop sign out.
Drivers going in the opposite direction of a school bus don't have to stop if there is one or more lanes separating the vehicle from the bus, Lattin said.
"When in doubt, stop," he said. "Nobody's ever going to get in trouble for stopping."
Lattin also encourages parents who drop off their kids to find a meeting place away from the front door of the school to avoid the heavy congestion.
Parents also should go over crosswalk and safety tips with their children if the kids are walking or riding their bikes to school.
Overall, officers say if motorists plan for the extra traffic and take their time, the start of the school year should be a safe one.
"Hopefully, it's more of an educational day ... but we need to slow them down," Flanagan said. "It's definitely going to be a strong presence of officers in school zones."
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org