PARMA, Ohio — Jillian Hopko is a Parma mother of two who is urging Northeast Ohio drivers to slow down and pay attention as they make their way through school zones this coming school year.
Hopko said she is in favor of Parma turning to traffic cameras to keep watch for violators in six school zones across the city. They are cameras Parma police said are only activated when school zone speed limits are in effect.
“It’s so scary, I have my two girls that mean the world to me," Hopko said. "I'm just fine with the cameras being installed. It’s not okay, it’s never okay to speed through the school zones.”
Parma has been using school zone traffic cameras since 2009, but this the first year the cameras have been permanently installed in multiple locations, complete with signage and flashing lights.
Sgt. John Porec with the Parma Police Traffic Unit said too often officers are catching drivers way over the 20 mph speed limit.
“This is some newer technology because this is a permanent structure as opposed to the portable units that we had in the past," Porec said. “We in the traffic unit generally see speeds in the 50 mph mark, sometimes even higher. This area is marked with signs, it’s marked with pavement markings and you have overhead flashing lights."
Porec said drivers caught doing 21 to 29 MPH will be issued a $100 fine, while drivers caught speeding at 30 mph and above would be given $200 fine, including points on their drivers license and court costs.
“The cameras are needed with there being over 500 streets here, an officer can not be everywhere," Porec said. “We want to educate the public about the importance of slowing down in these zones, and the importance of keeping the children safe.”
Sgt. Ray Santiago, with the Ohio Highway Patrol Public Affairs Unit, said school zone and school bus zone violations are a problem statewide with nearly 2,800 citations issued in 2020 alone.
“This is very high on our priority list because we know what’s at risk, that’s our students and our young ones," Santiago said. “The tolerance in a school zone is pretty close to zero. Troopers have issued over the past five years nearly 14,000 traffic citations for school bus and school zone infractions. That’s a big number, and each one of those is truly an opportunity for someone to get seriously hurt."
Meanwhile, Hopko said she's hoping drivers will use extra caution when going through school zones, especially since it wasn't a real issue last year with many students learning remotely due to the pandemic.
“We all have to get back in that habit now that schools are back in session," Hopko said. "Our kids will be back in school, we have to be careful, we have to watch out for each other."