Vancouver Police officers step up patrols in school zones

Enforcement up during first 3 weeks of classes as pedestrians, traffic increase

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter


photoClick to enlarge.

Enforcement by the numbers

In the first two days of school zone enforcement this school year, Vancouver Police issued 59 tickets and made two arrests


24 Speeding

7 Parking in prohibited area (one driver in a handicapped parking spot)

6 Children younger than 13 in front seat

5 Missing or expired insurance information

3 Driving with a suspended license

3 Pedestrian (jay walking)

3 Seat belt violations

2 Seat belt violations of children younger than 16 (both were 11 years old)

2 Violation of instruction permit

2 Failure to register vehicle within Washington

1 No valid driver’s license

1 Talking on a cell phone while driving


1 Misdemeanor warrant

1 Felony warrant

School is back in session. That means tests, textbooks, pep rallies and those flashing yellow lights that tell drivers to slow down to 20 mph.

During the first three weeks of school, the Vancouver Police Department patrols the school zones a little harder than the rest of the year, and it shows — in the first two days of enforcement last month, the traffic unit wrote 59 citations, made two arrests and gave 12 warnings for various offenses in school zones.

Enforcement reminds both commuters and parents running late that school zones have reduced speed zones when children are present or the lights are flashing, said Officer Ryan Martin, who’s part of the school zone unit.

Vancouver has two motorcycle officers, one motorcycle sergeant and two officers in unmarked police vehicles who work school zones. The unit has been significantly reduced over the years, due to a drop in funding.

Schools such as Wy’east Middle School, Fort Vancouver High School, St. Joseph Catholic School, Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, and others on roads with more than two lanes of travel have been the schools with the most offenders, Martin said.

“The higher the traffic volume, the more offenders there are going to be,” said traffic Sgt. Pat Johns.

Roads around such schools generally have a higher standard speed limit — around 35 mph — while it’s typically 25 mph in residential areas or on two-lane roads. Offenders on public thoroughfares tend to be commuters, while in residential zones Martin tends to pull over parents who are running late.

The most common violation is speeding within a school zone and it’s potentially the most deadly. At 21 mph, a pedestrian has a 10 percent chance of dying if they’re hit by a vehicle, but at 35 mph, the chance of death spikes to 99 percent, according to the Vancouver Police Department. While state law allows photo radar cameras to catch speeders in school zones, there aren’t any cameras set up in Vancouver.

Some days, though, everybody is doing it right, Johns said, and he doesn’t have to give out any tickets. When he went to Franklin Elementary School one Wednesday, where lots of parents were dropping off their kids, he caught just one person speeding. Later, at Lincoln Elementary School, no one was speeding.

Although school zone enforcement happens throughout the year, there’s more emphasis in September because drivers are getting used to reduced speed limits and higher pedestrian density, said Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp. Drivers may not be aware of traffic control changes in and around school parking lots, and they may not be used to the increase in vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513;;