Worst School Zones: A FOX44 Investigation

Local

The Waco Police Department has handed out 350 citations to people caught speeding through school zones since January 2017. 

FOX44 requested the numbers and our investigation reveals the area around La Vega Junior High has the highest number of school zone speeders in Waco. 

In some cases, parents themselves were the worst offenders. Some drivers were caught going nearly 50 miles an hour in a 20 mile an hour school zone. A breakdown of the offenders shows women are speeding the most.

 

La Vega Junior High sits on Orchard Street. School dismisses students just before 4:00 p.m. every weekday.  

Children are seen crossing the roads, as car after car zooms past the posted school zone at 20 miles per hour. 

While our cameras were rolling, grandfathers were caught, as well as mothers. Some drivers were pulled over in the school pick-up line. 

Waco Police say the main reason Orchard Street is an issue is because people are using it as a shortcut off of Loop 340. 

The typical speed on Orchard Street is 40 miles an hour, but when the school zone hits, it drops down to 20 miles an hour.

FOX44 requested the records to see what the fastest speeds police were stopping people for, it was 47 miles per hour in a school zone.

WORST SPEED ZONES IN WACO:

Ivette Lopez is one of the women who was pulled over. 

“I think he said [I was going] 41,” Lopez says. 

According to McLennan County, getting caught going 21 miles over the limit means a $265 fine.

“I usually don’t do that, I don’t speed, but I’m on my way to get my son, so I’m already late to pick up, and I was just like. ‘Okay, I got to get there!,” Lopez says.

“It’s become an increasing problem,” says Waco Police Officer Joey Kimble. “If you’re not at that speed, then you lose your stopping distance. And kids are very unpredictable.” 

“I went by, and well, forgot I was in a school zone,” says grandfather Gonzalo Garcia who was also pulled over when our FOX44 cameras were rolling.

Police say Garcia was going 18 over the limit, which is a $235 fine in the county.

“I think they need to put a flashing sign, because sometimes we’re not paying attention and the light would help,” Garcia says.

Adding flashing lights signs is something that’s handled by the Texas Department of Transportation, but it’s up to the school district to ask for them. 

Junior high parents say whatever the solution is, they want it now. 

“I would be that parent, that if something happened to my kid, because somebody else is rushing, it’s not a good enough excuse,” Lopez says.

La Vega ISD says to fight the problem in front of the junior high, they asked for more Waco police officers. 

They say no parents have come forward to complain about school speeding issues. District officials did not mention they have actively asked for signs.

As for the flashing school zone light, Garcia mentioned, the Waco Traffic Engineering Manager says the city is shying away from using flashing zone lights due to the cost. 

For the La Vega Junior High area, the district or a resident would need to make a flashing light request. City officials say no one has asked for that to date. 

If someone did, there would first need to be a traffic study to ensure lights are needed. If approved, it could cost upwards of $25,000. 

The city’s Traffic Engineering Manager says they’ve looked at several studies that show there’s little difference in regular school zone signs and flashing signs. You can see the report here.

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