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|OPSO rampus up patrols as school year kicks off|
The Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office beefed up its presence in school zones now that schools across the parish are in full swing.
Sheriff Royce Toney said each year when school begins the sheriff's office places patrol deputies at the busiest school crossings to ensure motorists obey the speed limit.
"We're trying to get people to slow down," Toney said. "It's not usually the parents because they're going slow because they have to drop their kids off. It's usually the business people rushing to get to work."
"We just want the citizens to take a little extra time to get to work," Toney continued. "If you need to leave 10 minutes early, please do that because we have children going to school now, and we'd appreciate it if they arrived at school safely and left school safely."
He said if motorists are caught speeding in a school zone, the fine for the offense would cost them a larger sum of money compared to other traffic fines.
"And, more importantly, they could hurt or kill a child," Toney said. "That would be extremely hard to live with, so I'm asking people to give themselves 10 more minutes extra to get to work. If you go through a school zone, give yourself some extra time to get through that school zone at a safe speed to protect our children."
Chief Jay Russell said motorists who are ticketed for speeding in a school zone must attend court. He said the least expensive ticket a violator would receive would be about $250.
"The judge can tack on a lot more for speeding in a school zone than other citations, and it's mandatory to go to court," Russell explained. "You can't pay it out of court because the District Attorney makes you go to court on a school zone citation."
Toney added, "You're not going to go to the little window and pay that fine. You're going to court and you may be there a half a day or longer. Is that worth speeding through a school zone?
"Plus, it will only take one fraction of a second to cause a lot of heartache."
Toney also reminds young drivers traveling to school to be careful while on the roads, especially since they most likely will pass through other school zones.
Teenagers today often text on their cell phone while driving, Toney said, which is "just as bad as a DWI."
"That is a growing problem and a serious problem, but it will be addressed with new laws that are coming," Toney said. "So, teenagers, is it really worth sitting there, texting while you drive? Call them on your hands free phone or just wait till you get to school.
"It's a fad, but it's a dangerous fad because it's got serious consequences. In that fraction of a second when you look down and look up, you can hit a school bus or an 18 wheeler."
The sheriff's office offers the following tips when traveling through a school zone:
* Slow down and obey all traffic laws and speed limits.
* Stop for school busses that are loading and unloading children;
* Watch for red flashing lights and the extended arm on the school bus;
* Watch for and obey signals from school crossing guards;
* Watch for school zone signals and obey the 15 mph speed limit;
* Do not pass other vehicles in school zones or at crosswalks;
* Limit cell phone use in school zones and near congested areas;