State Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson proposed doubling fines for traffic violations in school zones as way to fund safety programs in light of state budget cuts.
Jackson introduced Assembly Bill 1886, which would allow cities and counties to pass an ordinance instating the increased fines, to the state legislature on Monday. The assembly passed it to its transportation committee, which will consider the proposal and decide whether to give it back to the assembly for a vote.
The monies would go toward safety measures such as crossing guards and pedestrian and bicycle safety programs. Jackson proposed similar legislation to the assembly last year, but the bill did not pass.
“Hannah-Beth’s constituents brought the issue of school traffic-safety to her attention,” Jackson aid Janice Rocco said. “Speed limits around schools are already 25 miles per hour, but many people do not follow this law. In 1990, the CHP found that children under the age of 15 accounted for about 33 percent of pedestrian accidents.”
The legislation would help unincorporated county areas such as Isla Vista that often find it difficult to provide crossing guards for schools, said Santa Barbara School District PTA Vice President Paula Perodde.
“A proposition was passed in the state that eliminated state funding for crossing guards. In unincorporated areas, school districts must pay for crossing guards,” Perodde said. “More crossing guards are needed, especially for schools that are near busy streets like Cathedral Oaks Road. Parents are always speeding in these areas for various reasons.”
Santa Barbara School District President Dulcie Sinn said the desire to resolve safety programs has existed for some time and that the state has a responsibility to pass Jackson’s bill.
“The PTA already proposed a resolution that suggested double fines in school zones. If fines are doubled in construction zones where workers wear hard hats, why shouldn’t they be doubled around schools?” he said. “We need to promote alternative ways for children to get to school. There needs to be safer opportunities to bike and walk to school.”
California cities and counties that choose to double fines in school zones would place signs warning drivers about the change. Wilson Hubbel, a senior environmental planner for the county, said if the bill passes the legislature, its implementation would be fairly simple.
“Signs must be put up before the CHP begins to implement the double fines. It costs about $150 to post one sign, so the process is not very expensive,” he said. “We might have to implement the fines only at the schools where there are the biggest problems with traffic.”
Foothill Elementary School Principal Ed Armstrong said schools should search for alternate ways to improve safety for their students, and that doubling fines is often ineffective.
“People will not read signs if they are talking on their cell phones,” he said. “Our school is located on Cathedral Oaks; so many people are driving near the school on their way to work. We have put up flashing lights for cross walks and we have also hired a crossing guard.”
Crossing guard programs are an important part of what the money can do to promote safety, Rocco said.
“Providing money to the crossing guard programs is very effective. If you are trying to solve a problem, you must go turn to more than one direction. Crossing guards are very important to creating pedestrian safety,” she said.