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The Daily Tar Heel

School zone speeding fine increases tenfold

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A new North Carolina law has raised the fine for speeding in a school zone from $25 to $250. The law went into effect on August 25.

Parents are hopeful that a new state law to raise the fine for speeding in school zones will keep children safer.

The law, which went into effect Aug. 25, increased the minimum fine for drivers caught speeding in designated school zones during school operating hours to $250 — ten times the previous fine of $25.

“When I first read about the law, I was shocked to learn that $25 was the previous fine,” said Jane Kerwin-Frederick, chairwoman of Health and Safety for the McDougle Middle School PTA.

Kerwin-Frederick, who has a child in seventh grade at McDougle Middle School, said speeding in a school zone poses a particularly dangerous threat to children.

“It’s an area where there is a large concentration of children two times a day,” she said.

“The kids are not always concentrating on the traffic — they’re thinking about where they’re going, what they’re doing with their friends, what’s going on at school.”

The measure to increase the fine was advocated by the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, which was created in 1991 by the N.C. General Assembly.

Elizabeth Hudgins, executive director of the task force, said concern for children’s safety drove their action.

“Increasing speed just a little bit has been shown to increase injuries greatly,” she said. “Children are especially vulnerable because of their smaller body mass.”

The task force used a 1987 study by the U.K. Department of Transportation to advocate for the increase in fine. The study showed that a pedestrian’s chances of death is 45 percent if they are hit by a car going 30 mph.

Hudgins also explained that there have been several studies which have demonstrated that speeding in school zones is a widespread problem.

Eighty percent of drivers were found to speed in school zones, some even 20 mph more than the limit, according to a N.C. Department of Transportation study from 2007.

Noreen McDonald, an assistant professor in the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning, said stricter speed limit laws can encourage walking to school.

“Families make decisions about how to travel based on how safe they think the environment is,” she said. “If there are strong traffic enforcements, parents will likely see that as safe and let their children walk to school.”

Coupled with effective law enforcement, the fine increase should help decrease the amount of drivers speeding in a school zone, McDonald said.

Kerwin-Frederick, who also has two children at Chapel Hill High School, said that teenage drivers often violate the school zone speed limit — which the law aims to discourage.

“Teenagers are still students, and they are sometimes the biggest violators as they run late to school,” she said.

“Hopefully, with them being new drivers, the fine will catch their attention.”

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