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Police vow to beef up patrol during peak school hours

William Ferchland

Come Tuesday, when Lake Tahoe Unified School District opens for the first day of the 2006-07 school year, students taking the bus might wonder why a police officer is sitting nearby.

Authorities with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department will focus on pedestrian safety and crack down on reckless driving during an enforcement plan for the school year.

“Expect to see a saturated police presence in school zones as schools begins again this week,” said Sgt. Brian Williams in a statement. “Officers will even be riding on school buses to identify drivers who fail to stop for their flashing red lights at bus stops. Assisting units in the area will stop violators and issue citations.”



Problem area where drivers are known to ignore the flashing red lights attached to buses that stop to pick up or drop off passengers are along Ski Run Boulevard, Pioneer Trail and Tahoe Keys Boulevard, according to Christy Monohan, transportation supervisor for the school district.

Monohan, a bus driver herself, appreciated the officer ride alongs on schools buses. For one, she said, it provides them a perspective of what the bus driver experiences daily. Also, the officer’s presence has a sobering affect on the students.



“It makes the kids behave nicer,” Monohan said.

In the winter, Ski Run Boulevard near David Lane proves dangerous as motorists tend to ignore school buses to get to Heavenly Mountain Resort, Monohan said.

Pioneer Trail at Hekpa Drive and Southern Pines Drive are also trouble areas. Tahoe Keys Boulevard, with its multiple stops, has oblivious motorists, Monohan said.

Then there are half-attentive drivers using cell phones.

“It’s just amazing what we see out there because we’re out there all the time,” Monohan said. “People are just in a hurry, not seeing what’s around them.”

The police department acquired two BMW motorcycles this summer for traffic enforcement. At least one of the two will likely assist in the enforcement for the first day of school and be a part of the department’s enforcement plan.

“We don’t want another serious accident like we had a couple years ago,” said traffic officer Shannon Laney.

Three years ago, Marissa Bassett was killed by a drunken driver near the intersection of 15th Street and Eloise Avenue while walking to a bus stop for her first day of high school as a freshman.

Laney said the police department’s traffic enforcement team is at full force and motorists will see evidence of their work in September.

Components of the plan include cracking down on speeding or reckless drivers in school zones, identifying weaknesses for the crossing guard program, unsafe drop-off or pick-up practices and proving school safety education to students and staff.

“We intend to identify and implement effective safety enforcement practices in our school zones,” Williams said. “We ask all of our motoring community to help us diminish traffic and pedestrian safety risks for our school children.”

Drive safely

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department will be focusing on school pedestrian and traffic safety issues including

— the identification and remediation of unsafe routes to school

— speeding/reckless driving in school zones

— unsafe parking and drop-off/pick-up practices

— school bus loading zone conflicts and double parking

— unclear school area signs and crosswalks with low visual impact and recognition

— poorly maintained/faded crosswalks and signs

— utility construction and street/public works hazards

— inadequate staffing or funding of crosswalk guard program

— providing school safety education to students and staff

— developing consistent enforcement and parking control intervention


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