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Opinion

Slow down on streets near parks

School is out, but drivers still need to be wary of children crossing streets on the way to playgrounds, swimming pools and other summertime activities.

Speed limits near parks have dropped to 20 mph, and there’s always a period of adjustment for drivers. But slowing down can be the difference between life and death.

Odds are, pedestrians struck at 20 mph will survive; at 30 mph, it’s about half and half; at 40 mph, it’s almost certainly a fatality.

The need to slow down around children was driven home in a recent article about the traffic cameras the city of Spokane set up near Longfellow and Finch elementary schools. The cameras are similar to the city’s red-light cameras. A photo is taken and a ticket is mailed to the owner of the vehicle (based on the license plate number).

Since January, when the city began issuing tickets, 5,778 tickets have been issued for violating the speed limit in those two school zones. Such violations are pricier – $234 to $450 – but an attention-getting amount is warranted.

Nonetheless, 5 percent of those ticketed are repeat offenders.

The majority of the tickets have been issued near Longfellow Elementary School, which is just off North Nevada Street and East Empire Avenue. Nevada is a key north-south arterial, so drivers unfamiliar with the area may not expect a school zone, despite warning lights, speed limit signs and a “Photo Enforced” sign.

The imbalance in tickets at Longfellow – 4,248 tickets to 1,530 at Finch – may suggest a need for more obvious warnings and increased safety measures along Nevada. The point is to get motorists to slow down, not collect fines. Critics of traffic and red-light cameras take a more cynical view, but we think they’ve demonstrated their value to date. Even drivers who had been ticketed told a Spokesman-Review reporter the cameras are needed.

Before installing the cameras, the city studied both school zones and found a high rate of speeding. For instance, in February 2015, 84 percent of drivers heading southeast on Northwest Boulevard near Finch Elementary School traveled at more than 26 mph in a 20 mph zone.

Other cities installing cameras in school zones have reported a reduction in speeding. That bodes well for the Spokane experiment. If anything, the city should expand the camera program.

Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan, who has been leery of traffic cameras, was moved by the statistics.

“One of these days, somebody who is not paying attention is going to hit a kid and they’re going to kill somebody,” Fagan told The Spokesman-Review. “Talk about a sad testament to drivers, their attitude and skills nowadays. It’s darn scary what’s going on out there.”

Though school is out, drivers still need to pay attention to children, especially as they head to and from the city’s parks.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on “Opinion.”



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