Evanston bumps up speeding fines

February 26, 2010 5:02:28 PM PST
In north suburban Evanston, drivers will be well-advised to avoid speeding, especially in school zones when children are present.

Last month, the Evanston City Council bumped fines for such infractions 150 percent from $200 to $550. And now the city has started warning drivers that the new law will be enforced strictly starting March 8.

At Kingsley Elementary where an idyllic playground butts up against a busy intersection it's felt the neon signs are not being obeyed.

"We also have students that stay after for after school events and I don't think people are aware that even after that 3:35 bell rings we have students that might be leaving at 4:30 and they are also walking," said Beatrice Davis, principal, Kingley Elementary.

Not slowing to 20 miles per hour between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. when kids are present will now cost you $550. Fifty dollars will go to the local school board and the rest to the city.

Evanston Mayor Elisabeth Tisdahl gave her state of the city address Friday. Evanston has had perennial budget problems posed in part by having a big, property tax-exempt university in its midst and some observers see the new fine as a cash grab.

"I think they would be better off taking care of a lot of the other moving violations that are going on around her, people running stop signs," said Mike Nunes, Chicago.

"The council here in Evanston is very concerned about school safety and the safety of young children and this is one of two things that we are doing here in Evanston over the next several weeks to try and increase pedestrian safety overall. This as well as banning the use of cell phones while you are driving," said Wally Bobkiewicz, Evanston city manager.

A 1999 U.S Department of Transportation study said pedestrians hit by cars going 30 miles per hour were more than four times more likely to die in a crash than those hit by cars going just 20 miles per hour. The city manager says the electorate who increasingly drive rather than walk their children to school want the rate hike.

"I live in a school zone as well as work at schools and I have two young children so I think it is necessary for the safety," said Gilo Kwaesi Logan, Evanston.

Evanston police did not respond to ABC7's calls seeking details on the plans for passing out warnings or extra patrols of school zones.