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Washington Voices

Pratt Area Speeders Mostly Parents, School Staff

Who speeds through school zones? Teenagers? People who don’t have children? Bad drivers who don’t care about kids?

A group of Sheriff’s Department volunteers has made a surprising finding. Around one Valley elementary school at least, most speeders are parents or school employees.

Armed with radar guns and note pads, SCOPE volunteers have been tracking speeders around Pratt Elementary School in the Edgecliff neighborhood.

According to their findings, more than 80 percent of the vehicles stopping at the school ignore the 20 miles per hour speed limit. Two-thirds of the cars travel at least five mph over the speed limit.

“It was pretty shocking,” said Carrie Felton, one of the SCOPE volunteers tracking speeders. “I kind of thought parents would be more concerned about other people’s children.”

Trained and encouraged by the Sheriff’s Department, the volunteers plan to attack the problem themselves. Next week, they’ll send a letter out to the parents of all Pratt students, reminding them to slow down and letting them know they’re tracking speeders.

Sometime next month, they’ll return with their radar guns and a reader board. Drivers caught speeding will receive a warning letter. Those who continue to drive too fast will get a personal call from a SCOPE volunteer.

If none of these measures works, the volunteers will hand their notes over to a sheriff’s deputy. The notes will include information about when and where problem drivers normally break the law, making it easy to cite them.

Police, they say, will be their final line of defense. With too few officers to patrol regularly, they’ve decided to take on the role of watchdogs. The effort, they say, will be ongoing.

The volunteers take their readings just before and after school. During a recent three-day period, they clocked 245 cars driving past the school on Bradley and Coleman. Just over 60 percent stopped at the school.

Fewer than 10 percent of the total cars obeyed the 20 mph speed limit. Nearly half were driving at least 6 mph over the limit.

The majority of the speeding vehicles stopped at the school, to pick up or drop off students, or park for work. Five of the offending vehicles were buses, volunteers said.

The volunteers doubt their school is different from any other. Parents and teachers everywhere are rushed to get to work, or to other obligations, they say.

“I don’t think it’s a conscious thing,” said Jackie Ash, a long-time volunteer at the school. “People just don’t think.”

But at Pratt, the concern is elevated. Ash knows of two students hit by cars near the school in recent years. A proposed couplet project is expected to bring more and faster traffic into the area.

The SCOPE volunteers, who include several parents, don’t mind standing out in the cold with a radar gun if it will slow drivers. They’re also working with parents and teachers to make the student drop-off area less hazardous. Cars and buses now compete for space in the same area, causing dangerous congestion, volunteers say.

The school plans to separate the buses by fall.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

Tags: safety