JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Parents of children in Johnson City Schools might notice a heavier police presence in school zones this week.
The Johnson City Police Department is ramping up law enforcement in active school zones after they say a dangerous situation happened near Fairmont Elementary when an unidentified driver tried to pass a school bus in the wrong lane.
“The car went around them and didn’t see the child and almost struck the child,” said Chief Deputy Debbie Botelho.
The child’s mother called police after seeing he was almost hit. JCPD is reminding the public to be on high alert in school zones.
“It could have been very tragic. For no reason. You just need to be patient,” said Botelho.
Because of that close call, Johnson City police say they have added extra police officers to monitor every school zone to watch and make sure people are following the rules.
“If you pull out and you go the wrong way down the street, you are gonna get a citation. If you speed in the school zone, if you’re on your phone, you’re gonna get a citation. Those are not cheap and there is no reason to be doing that,” said Botelho.
JCPD has issued 43 citations in school zones since Johnson City Schools went back to class on August 4. The majority of those violations occurred near Science Hill High School.
“Be aware of your surroundings, watch your speed, slow down, you need to be scanning the road ahead with defensive driving because you never know when a child may run across the roadway in a school zone,” said Sergeant Nathan Hall with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
THP troopers also watch for violations in school zones daily. Hall says when it comes to distractions, it is illegal for anyone to operate any handheld device when lights are flashing.
“Also, something a lot of people don’t know, if you are under 18, you can’t even talk on a wireless device like a Bluetooth going through a school zone,” said Hall.
Hall reminds drivers when a school bus is stopped with lights flashing, even the opposite direction of traffic must stop unless there is a concrete or grass median separating them.
It comes down to the safety of children and making sure reckless drivers are stopped.
“For someone to hit a child, to injure or to kill them just because you are in a rush, obviously that risk is not worth it. Give yourself extra time when you are going to and from work or taking your kids to school. Don’t ever pass a school bus,” said Hall.
Botelho also encouraged drivers waiting in lines or stopped by buses to never block people’s driveways or any fire hydrants in the area in case of an emergency.
JCPD urges anyone who witnesses dangerous driving in and around school zones or bus stops to call 911.