Law enforcement warns SWFL drivers to be careful with school in session

Published: August 11, 2022 8:12 AM EDT
Updated: August 11, 2022 8:34 AM EDT

Southwest Florida drivers will need to slow down on weekday mornings to come: Those school zone signs will be back to flashing as children go to class Monday through Friday, and consequences for speeding will be increased.

Speeders can face fines up to hundreds of dollars plus points on their licenses, and speeding in a school zone can cost you double what you would pay if you got pulled over anywhere else. On Thursday morning, WINK News saw drivers going 25 mph in a school zone outside Gateway High School, along Griffin Drive and SR-82—one person was even going 40 mph. The speed limit in a school zone is typically between 15 and 20 mph.

WINK spoke with Ken Watson, a state trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol, who says that during the early morning hours you need to keep your eyes on the road. Kids could be outside walking to school or waiting at a bus stop as early as 6 a.m., a time when it’s easy to get distracted by your morning coffee, phone or car radio. Most importantly: slow down.
If you get pulled over by FHP, a typical moving violation could cost around $160 dollars, which would become $320 in a school zone.

Watson says there will be extra law enforcement officers on the road now that class is back in session.

“Your local sheriff’s offices and police departments, along with the school board’s own police force and the Florida Highway Patrol, will also be out there doing everything we can to assist,” Watson said. “The most important thing that we can do as a law enforcement agency is make sure that the most vulnerable users of our roadways are safe.”

Watson added even when you pass a school zone, drivers still need to slow down and pay attention to the road, since kids could be walking or standing by the road in the periphery of school zones, too.

“Just because those school areas end, that doesn’t mean all of a sudden the children are gone,” Watson said. ‘We have to make sure that we’re watching out for the kids, because a lot of them do not have the proper lighting on their bicycles, or they’re not wearing any reflective clothing. So, again, it’s incumbent upon the driver of the vehicle to really have that good situational awareness and be looking out for the kids.”