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Cops can't slow down school-zone speeders

By JEAN HELLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 9, 2001


You will read more about this topic on these pages soon, but it is an important enough one that Jessie thought you should have a heads-up now. Jessie's instincts about these things are usually good.

You will read more about this topic on these pages soon, but it is an important enough one that Jessie thought you should have a heads-up now. Jessie's instincts about these things are usually good.

Youth resources detectives from the St. Petersburg Police Department have been trying to curb speeding through school zones, a most worthy goal. But the results boggle the mind because, amazingly enough, there are none.

The highly visible police presence at three schools a day, the zero tolerance for speeding, multiple chase cars and the issuance of dozens of tickets a day have done virtually nothing to slow people down. Even the police are astonished.

"One of the detectives was telling me about the morning that the police were out in force, rooftop lights blazing, stopping people, ticketing people, and other drivers continued racing through the school zones as if no one was there," said department spokesman Rick Stelljes.

The teams work three schools a day -- one high school, one elementary school, then one middle school -- because of the staggered times classes begin.

"They work from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., doing one school for 45 minutes, leaving 15 minutes to get to the next school, and so on," Stelljes said. "On Nov. 27, a team using four chase cars issued 42 citations for speeding and three for misdemeanors."

Last week, one team using eight chase cars issued 46 tickets for speeding and one misdemeanor citation.

Maybe there's something these drivers don't know about the fines associated with speeding in a school zone. They double, just as they do in a construction zone when there are workers present. Each citation will cost in the neighborhood of $220. That's a pretty pricey neighborhood.

Jessie wants to know if the few seconds you save zipping through a school zone are worth the price. Will money mean something to you, even if the welfare of the city's kids doesn't?

If you have any possible way to avoid it, stay away from the intersection of 28th Avenue N and Ninth Street (Dr. M.L. King). You'll be fine going north-south on MLK. But east-west on 28th Avenue is serious trouble. The intersection is bisected by the Hump From Heck. The pavement is chopped up something awful, and the crossing has dips on both sides serious enough to deploy your airbags.

For the sheer precariousness of it, this intersection receives the dubious achievement award, also known as the Eyeball Jiggler of the Week.

Sound your horns.

While we're on 28th Avenue N, eastbound, we found another of those important signs partially obscured by overgrown plants. In this case, it is a stop sign on the southwest corner of 28th Avenue N and Sixth Street. A palm is hanging directly in front of it. Strangely enough, it is fairly easy to see the stop sign when you're half a block away, but as you close on it, it becomes increasingly obscured. While you can see some red through the fronds, and you can probably deduce from the red that there is a stop sign there, it seems to us the city should not let enforcement signs become a guessing game.

Jessie has a pair of pruning shears if the city needs to borrow them.

Here's another one of those weird state roadie signs.

You're driving north on Interstate 275 from somewhere in south county. You are approaching Interstate 175. The directional signs tell you that the two right lanes are "Exit Only."

Oh, yeah?

In fact, traffic in the extreme right lane must exit on to I-175. One lane over, however, traffic has a choice, exit or go straight ahead on I-275.

Once again, we are forced to wail to the winds: Where are standards?

We had a note from Lee Smith, a St. Petersburg resident and a one-time tow truck driver, who thinks the city isn't cleaning up traffic accident debris as well as it used to.

"I have noticed over the past couple of years that accident debris such as plastic splash guards, bumpers, taillight assemblies, large amounts of glass, etc., are left at the accident site for everybody to run over," Lee wrote. "When I drove a wrecker, the city required that all wrecker companies (that were) picking up autos from accident scenes ... remove all debris from the scene."

Well, they still do. In serious accidents, where drivers might have been incapacitated, the city has a contract with a towing company to pick up the wrecked cars and take them away. That contract includes cleaning up the scene.

"If it's a minor accident," said Lt. Tom Carey, commander of the St. Petersburg Police Department's traffic division. "The owners of the cars have the option of calling their own towing company or Triple-A. But whoever does the tow is supposed to clean up the scene. If the officer on right there doesn't think the job has been done well enough, he has the option to tell the towing company to do some more work."

Lt. Carey said he would watch the situation and send out a notice, if necessary, reminding traffic officers to be mindful of the accident scene housekeeping.

Once again, dear reader, Dr. Delay's Terrible Traffic Tidbits are overtaken by events. We simply must tell you that starting Monday -- goodness, that's tomorrow -- 128th Street in Seminole will be closed from Old Oakhurst Road to Poinsettia Road. The street will remain closed for more than a month.

No word on why, but the work is being done by a company specializing in underground utilities. We don't even want to speculate on what that means.

-- Dr. Delay can be reached by e-mail at docdelay@sptimes.com, by fax at (727) 893-8675 or by snail mail at 490 First Ave., S, St. Petersburg 33701.

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