School zone speeding -- Region 8 News Investigation

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – After several Region 8 News investigations, school zone speeding continues to be a problem across northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri.

According to Jonesboro Police Officer Blake Anderson, people sometimes drive twice the posted speed limit in school zones across the city, and the crime is not isolated to one area.

"It's pretty well expected to see people speeding, especially in school zones. I mean, people speed all over town, so it's not shocking at all to see people speeding in school zones either," said Anderson.

"I got up, combed my hair, ironed my clothes and then my friend, 'Cornbread', Carlos, he came over and knocked on the door. We walked to school," said Markel Livingston.

Markel lives near the Nettleton Intermediate School and walks to class almost every day. He said he usually goes to school early to grab a bite to eat.

"We walk past, go across the train tracks and then go to school to eat breakfast and then go to class," said Livingston.

Markel has been walking to school for more than a year and a half. On one foggy morning, he walked past our cameras as we ran radar on Race Street. At the time, he didn't consider how fast the vehicles were traveling a few feet from his tiny concrete sidewalk.

"Most of the time, it's the young kids coming from Nettleton, the high school boys. You can hear them revving their engines and trucks and stuff," said Livingston.

Markel, who is only 14-years old, told Region 8 News that he's feared for his safety before. He said it's dangerous to cross Race Street. He said he's played basketball at the community center with his friends.

"When I used to come up here to play basketball, the cars, they don't ever stop and let you pass. You got to hurry up and run past it or you're going to get hit. And then you got to watch out when you're on your bikes too," said Livingston.

Region 8 News investigated school zone speeding on Race Street on two different mornings. We ran radar on 298 vehicles one morning without a police officer present and 304 vehicles another morning with a police officer. The average speed was just over 27 miles an hour combined, seven miles an hour over the posted speed limit of 20 miles an hour when kids are present.

"We got several in the 30 speed and even some 40s," said Anderson. "I know if I was a parent, that I'd be upset by it."

We broke down the speeds by the quarter hour, between 7:00 and 8:00. Without an officer present, people sped nearly 10 miles an hour over the limit. Children were present a few minutes before 7:00.

"There's a little store down the street, and all of the kids walk to it in the mornings and stuff and cars, they just be going crazy," said Livingston. "I don't want to get hurt. I don't have time to be in the hospital."

The speed decreased with an officer present. While people were traveling six miles an hour over the limit between 7:45 and 8:00 without an officer, the average speed dropped roughly two miles an hour with an officer present.

"I mean they're just speeding, they're used to driving that fast. They're not really paying attention to how fast their going. They're distracted by cell phones or whatever else they're thinking about. I know if they saw someone speeding past their kid that fast, they'd be upset, but yet they're out here speeding past someone else's kid, doing the same speed," said Anderson.

"I understand if you got to get to work, but slow down. Watch for us because there are a whole bunch of us walking at different times," said Livingston.

The fastest speed we recorded was 44 miles an hour without an officer present. With an officer present, the highest speed recorded on radar was 41 miles an hour. The speed limit was 20 miles an hour at both times.

Speeding is nothing new to school districts around Region 8. In August of 2009, Region 8 News discussed school zone speeding near the new Trumann High School. Assistant Chief of Police Gary Henry told Region 8 News that he's pulled over individuals traveling as high as 60 miles an hour. Also, on September 13 of this year, Region 8 News investigated a speeding problem at Fox Meadow Elementary School. Our cameras also caught people speeding well over ten miles an hour over the posted limit.

So how can parents, police and school administrators stop the problem? Anderson said people should report problems to the school and police, and help look out for speeders. Various websites also mention people should establish community watch type programs to crack down on a problem.

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