Expect extra police patrols in school zones

The start of a new school year is an exciting time for kids and parents, but it also is a busy time for law enforcement officers as they conduct extra patrols in school safety zones.

Officers in the Tri-Cities will be out in force around schools making sure drivers are slowing down and following the 20 mph school zone limit. The extra patrols aren't about writing more tickets, but rather ensuring kids who walk or ride their bikes to school get there safely, officials said.

"Drivers need to pay a lot more attention to smaller people on the streets," said Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb. "We'll definitely be monitoring the situation and taking education and enforcement actions, when appropriate."

Not all school zones have flashing lights, so drivers need to pay attention to the signs around them. The 20 mph speed limits are usually in effect during certain hours -- which are specified on the sign -- or when kids are present.

Speeding in a school zone comes with a hefty fine -- more than speeding in a normal zone -- and fines on school zone speeding tickets can't be reduced in court, said Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin.

Drivers also need to remember to yield to pedestrians in the street and pedestrians should make sure it's safe to cross before leaving the sidewalk, officials said.

"For drivers, just remember that kids are not going to be looking for cars," Lattin said. "They may be doing something totally unexpected. They don't have the capability to judge time and distance."

Motorists may see children on a sidewalk and think there's no way the kids are going to dart across the road, but kids aren't always paying attention, so drivers should be extra cautious, he said.

Drivers also need to pay attention to school buses and remember that illegally passing a bus with its stop sign out also can result in a hefty fine.