School speed fines go up

New signs, flashing lights posted where penalties are doubled

Problem is `sporadic'

Cradlerock Way, Kilimanjaro Road are among trouble spots

April 16, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Motorists speeding past Howard County schools face much steeper fines beginning this week.

Speeders within a school zone -- where there is a sign warning of the new penalties as well as flashing warning lights -- will be fined twice as much as for an ordinary speeding ticket.

Fines will range from $140 for speeding 10 to 19 miles over the 25-mph speed limit to $540 for driving 20 to 29 mph over the limit, police say.

The normal schedule of fines applies when warning lights aren't flashing -- they flash 15 minutes before and after school opening and closing times -- or if warning signs aren't up.

County officials decided to double the fines and put up the necessary signs after the General Assembly approved a law last year giving local governments authority to do so. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, went into effect Oct. 1.

Under another bill he sponsored, which becomes law July 1, Howard County police can assess the higher fines whenever students are on school property, regardless of whether warning lights are flashing.

Stone said he decided to sponsor the legislation authorizing higher fines after his wife's cousin -- a school crossing guard -- was killed in December 1997 while working.

County officials have spent the last six months buying and posting new flashing and warning signs, said Parris Zirkenbach, a traffic engineer for the county Department of Public Works.

"When the law went into effect, we had to change our signs," Zirkenbach said. "The law said the signs had to say the fines were doubled before the law could be enforced."

The county ordered 55 signs, at a cost of $4,000, Zirkenbach said.

County traffic officials have completed posting warning signs at 32 of the 65 public schools that are along county roads. The State Highway Administration is responsible for signs at schools along state roads, and is working to post the signs, Zirkenbach said.

Once county officials finished posting the signs this week, police were notified of the change, said Sgt. Morris Carroll, a Howard County police spokesman.

"The law goes into effect immediately," Carroll said.

Carroll said the department receives complaints regularly from school crossing guards who say motorists are ignoring speed limits.

Glenn Johnson, director of transportation for the county's public schools, said speeding within school zones is not a frequent problem. Don LaFond, chief of pupil transportation at the state Department of Education, said the problem is "sporadic."

"It really has to do with certain roadways," particularly those that are wide or straight, LaFond said.

Roads most noted for speeding include Columbia's Cradlerock Way, near Dasher Green Elementary and Owen Brown Middle schools; Kilimanjaro Road near Oakland Mills middle and high schools; and Guilford Road at Hammond High School, said Sgt. A. J. Bellido de Luna of the traffic enforcement section.

"Generally, when there's a problem, parents or principals call, and [police] monitor it," said LaFond.

Pub Date: 4/16/99

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