Back-to-School Traffic to Be Focus; Law Enforcement to Keep Close Lookout for Lawbreakers as More Classes Start

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein, The Times-Union

The start of Duval County's school year Monday will mean more cars on the road, longer commute times, and stiffer fines for those who speed in school zones or fail to stop for school buses.

Clay County public schools also will ring in the new year Monday, followed by Putnam County and Flagler County on Wednesday. Baker, Nassau and St. Johns counties started school last week.

As always, the first day of class will result in heavier traffic, so commuters should leave earlier so they won't be late for work. Police will be patrolling around schools to make sure drivers slow down where schools zones have a posted speed of 15 miles per hour.

"School is back and we're going to let them know it," said Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Sgt. Steve Mullen.

The state increased fines for all speeding violations on July 1. The penalty for speeding in school zones ranges from $90.50 to $540.50, depending on how fast the driver is going. The minimum fine previously was $50.

More than the fine, the safety of children is what's at stake, said Sheriff's Office patrolman Rick Cosio.

"You're just going to have a lot more traffic and everybody is going to be leaving for the school at the same time," he said. "We try to tell the adults that the kids are not going to be looking for them, so it's up to the adults to be looking out for the kids."

In Flagler County, the Sheriff's Office is recommending Flagler Palm Coast High School students leave home 20 minutes earlier than usual because of road work on Florida 100 in front of the school.

In addition to traffic at schools, motorists should be on alert for stopped school buses.

The penalty for failing to stop for a school bus is $140.50, compared to $118 in years past. Motorists who illegally pass a school bus on the right side of the bus, which is where students get on and off the bus, face a fine of $240.50.

Motorist must stop in both directions for a school bus unless they are on a divided road. …