By: Sarah Snyder
By now you've heard it's illegal to talk on you cell phone in school zones. There's even signs telling you, but are those signs paid by taxpayer dollars making our campuses safer? NewsWest 9 spoke with officials in both Midland and Odessa to find out.
School zone signs went up at the beginning of this school year but NewsWest 9 wanted to know are these signs really working? Police in Odessa and in the Tall City say they're getting more complaints and now, they're going to be stepping up their patrol.
"They're talking to their friends, they're not paying attention especially around the elementary schools - the potential when you have a large amount of kids is much higher," Lt. Brian Bogart, with the Midland Police Department, said.
That's why the flashing yellow lights and big signs mark every school zone entrance but even with the bright signals it didn't take long for NewsWest 9to catch quite a few offenders.
Midland Police say they're getting multiple calls every week reporting drivers talking and texting in school zones. To date, they haven't patrolled these zones often, but after getting numerous complaints, they're stepping up their game.
"We are actually going to start putting more emphasis on it," Lt. Bogart said. "We'll put PSA's out telling people where we'll be and what we'll be doing to make them more aware - hey, you see that school zone - put your phone down."
And in Ector County, ECISD police say they've been fortunate. So far this school year, they've had no major accidents stemming from distracted drivers. And the Lieutenant Mark Rowden says, it's all thanks to the signs.
"Making people aware, giving them that notice of that sign being there prior to them entering the school zone is one more reminder - 'hey I need to pay attention and this (cell phone) doesn't need to be here,'" Lt. Mark Rowden with ECISD Police, said.
Lt. Rowden says their biggest problem areas are around Nimitz Jr High sitting right on JBS Parkway and after school lets out around high schools.
"Everybody knows you have to slow down in a school zone because kids are going to be crossing. Well, speed is not the only thing that hurts people," Lt. Rowden said. "Inattention is even a bigger factor in traffic accidents."
"We want people to be aware of what they're doing and pay attention and that's the whole thing about don't use your cell phone because it's going to distract you," Lt. Bogart said.
Odessa Police say so far this year, they've written quite a few citations for drivers using cell phones in school zones. Midland Police say during the next couple of months, they'll start watching heavily traveled school zones during the peak hours before school, during lunch, and after that last bell rings.