A push to make school bus routes safer in Saratoga County resulted in dozens of speeding tickets over the first few weeks of the school year.
A total of 67 speeding tickets were issued by the Saratoga County Sheriff's Department between the start of school on Sept. 5 and Sept. 17, according to Sgt. Brent Dupras in the Sheriff's Department traffic safety unit.
The deputies have been monitoring the school zones at the Shenendehowa Central School District as part of the Stop For Flashing Red Lights campaign, a statewide effort by law enforcement organizations and transportation officials to curb unsafe driving in school zones. Such driving includes speeding and going around school buses while their stop signs and lights are in use.
Some of the campaign involves raising awareness about school bus safety via videos, bumper stickers and billboards, but a large effort is focused on placing police officers near school bus routes to ticket drivers who go around stopped buses or drive too fast.
At a press conference on the Shenendehowa Central School District campus on Sept. 5, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said there would be deputies continuously patrolling bus routes.
The Saratoga Springs Police Department, according to spokesman Lt. Bob Jillson, hadn't issued any speeding tickets in school zones as of Sept. 21. But last school year there were 22 school zone speeding tickets issued by the Police Department. A total of 46 were issued two years ago.
According to Jillson, the city Police Department issues fewer tickets than the Sheriff's Department because of the manpower each department dedicates to watching school zones.
Many factors, including budget cuts, play into fewer speeding tickets being issued last year than in previous years, he said.
"As we identify target areas, we’ll send officers down there or put a speed sign there, and identify it as a problem," Jillson said.
None of the tickets issued by sheriff's deputies since the start of school were for drivers going around school buses illegally, according to Dupras.
Zurlo said drivers noticed the police presence on the bus routes and have been altering their driving accordingly.
"We've been in the school zones, and we've been giving some tickets and issuing some warnings," he said. "Our presence has definitely been noted."
Zurlo said that, in the past, bus drivers have let police know when drivers ignore their stop signs, and he expects they will continue to alert police to unsafe drivers. Police will continue to monitor various bus routes throughout the school year.
Staying close to the school zones throughout the year is not new to the traffic and safety unit, Dupras said.
"We've done this for years," he said.
The school zone enforcement effort is funded with the help of a state traffic and safety grant, Dupras said.