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Sheriff will write tickets for speeders at school crossing

MANATEE — Even after a local judge ruled in September 2008 that the Florida Department of Transportation failed to properly mark a school crossing zone on State Road 70 in front of River Club, most drivers seemed to slow down for the flashing yellow lights.

County Judge Mark D. Singer had found four drivers not guilty of speeding through the crossing because the devices establishing the school crossing zone were not in the proper position, the Herald previously reported.

After Singer’s ruling, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office stopped writing tickets at the six-lane crossing, which is supposed to allow students to safely walk to and from Braden River Elementary and Braden River Middle.

On Monday, however, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that it would once again be enforcing the 20-mph speed limit at the crossing when the yellow traffic signals are flashing.

Improvements have been made to the school zone and it is now in compliance with FDOT standards, the Sheriff’s statement said.

Cindy Clemmons, public information officer for the FDOT district that covers Manatee and Sarasota, said in an email that four reduced speed school zone warning signs had been posted, as well as four “speeding fines doubled” regulatory signs.

FDOT also relocated the four flashing beacons regulatory signs, which read “school - speed limit 20 mph when flashing,” back 100 feet.

Asked when deputies could start writing tickets, Dave Bristow, spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said, “Right away.”

Initially, deputies will seek to educate drivers that they can be ticketed for speeding through the school crossing zone.

“People need to be aware that this is an official school crossing zone. It’s a busy area and has the potential for something bad to happen,” Bristow said.

Margi Nanney, school district spokeswoman, said she hoped the increased visibility of the flashers and signage will make drivers more aware of the school crossing zones and will slow down to protect students.

At the time the Sheriff’s Office said it would stop righting citations, Lt. Chris Miller, Florida Highway Patrol public affairs officer, said troopers would continue to monitor traffic in that area. It would be up to the individual trooper whether they issue a citation, the Herald reported.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.