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School Zone Safety: Local Police Explain When the Law Applies

BLOOMINGTON – The school year is in full swing, prompting area police to ramp up extra patrols on city streets.
BLOOMINGTON – The school year is now in full swing, prompting area police to ramp up extra patrols on city streets.

But when it comes to school speed zones, officers say, drivers have been confused.

Questions include, when does the speed limit apply, and at what time of day?

Hitting the Streets:

It’s Monday morning and Bloomington Police officer Ivy Thornton is up early making sure adults heading to work and children going to school get where they need to be.

"Neither one is thinking about the other, and that is why we have the safety precautions in place,” Thornton explained.

She’s referring to school speed zones.

They’re the marked areas where drivers are supposed to travel 20 miles per hour with their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

"I’m going to be looking for the violations, the no turn on red when children are present, no cell phone usage,” said Thornton.  “Texting is the absolute worst while driving."

Thornton is heading to Washington Elementary School, located on a corner packed with people and traffic.

"Super busy.  Really dangerous,” said crossing guard Becky Burden.

Burden says drivers tend to forget when young students are nearby.

"I see a lot of distracted motorists."

So, Officer Thornton is clearing up the confusion.

"If you can see that (speed limit 20) sign and there is a child present and you are near a school, that is the school zone," she said.

The law is in effect from 7 am to four pm on school days when children are present.

"Present means on the sidewalk, walking to and from a bus stop.  If they are on the playground, that does not count as present.”

While no one wants to get pulled over, authorities say there's a simple strategy to avoid the outcome.

"If you pass the school you're good.  If you're nearing the school, you need to be alert,” Thornton explained.

A simple reminder, police hope helps keep the public safe.

The Cost:

School zone violations aren't cheap.

If convicted of speeding, drivers must pay a $375 fine.

A cell phone ticket costs $120.

Stop-Arm Reminders:

Bloomington police are also witnessing a large number of bus "stop arm" violations.

When the yellow vehicle is pulled over and the sign is displayed it means students are being picked up or dropped off.

Drivers are supposed to stop, but police say they often dart around the school bus.

Some are equipped with cameras to catch people in the act.

If convicted of a stop-arm violation, drivers must pay a $150 fine.

Police say it's $500 for a second offense.

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