I-Team discovers little enforcement to catch school zone speeders in Maine
STATEWIDE (WGME) — The I-Team investigates growing concerns and complaints about drivers speeding through school zones.
"They go very fast. There are signs and everything. I don't know if they can't read anymore or don't care," Reiche Elementary crossing guard Kathy Schmaling told us.
In Maine, speed limits are reduced when school is opening and closing for the day to help keep students safe, but the CBS I-Team found enforcement in our state's school zones appears to be rare.
Schmaling said it's getting harder and harder to get cars to slow down and pay attention to the the signs, lowering the speed limit to 15 miles an hour at the start and end of the school day.
"I worry about the children," she said.
The I-Team sorted through years of speeding tickets.
Court records reveal in the entire state, just 207 drivers were cited for speeding in school zones in 2016.
That's only about 1 ticket a day during the school year and the fewest number of tickets since 2013, when 372 tickets were issued for speeding in school zones.
[See below for the number of tickets issued for school zone speeding violations in your city or town]
"It is a problem here. I wish I could stop it. I've talk to the school everything so it's up to the cops I guess," Schmaling said.
We talked with several police departments and they all agree, speeding in school zones is a problem. It's not that people are slowing down, they say, there just aren't enough resources to catch them. Most departments told us they only enforce school zone violations when they have extra time and officers.
"We get a lot of complaints in our school zones," said Portland officer Zachary Theriault.
On a sunny spring morning two weeks ago, we found Theriault looking for speeders outside King Middle School.
"Typically a lot of people that just aren't paying attention," he said.
It didn't take Officer Theriault long to clock a driver going 30: twice the school zone speed limit.
"She said she's lucky she didn't hit a kid," he said.
Officer Theriault said his department recently got a federal grant to support overtime patrols and crack down.
It follows a year in which Portland police issued 53 tickets for speeding in all of the city's 14 school zones in all of 2016.
"When we have the extra time and funding for something like this, it gives us an extra officer we can put in the area checking speeds and watching people go through the school zones," Officer Theriault explained.
For crossing guards like Kathy Schmaling, and parents in the Reiche school zone, it's a move in the right direction.
"I did see the other day a car rushing down Brackett Street and a kiddo almost got hit; there are some safety concerns," mom Gina Forbes said.
The police chief in Rockland told us he has officers in school zones every day.
He says that high visibility is a deterrent to speeding and the reason why they only issued 2 school zone speeding tickets last year.
If you do get a ticket for speeding in a school zone in Maine, fines double and could cost more than $500.