Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Complaints and suggestions from motorists have prompted the Quincy Police Department to change school speed zones signs.

Signs in front of Quincy schools told motorists to slow down to 20 milers per hour "when children are present." They now simply say the zones are in effect from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on school days.

"Based on public input, there was apparently some confusion with the old signs," Quincy Chief Rob Copley said. "Department of Transportation standards allow only one of the two signs to be posted, but not both. We opted to change to the new signs to help ease the confusion of our motorists."

Parochial schools start today in Quincy, with public schools beginning Friday. Copley said no school speed zone enforcement details are currently scheduled, but traffic surveys will be conducted and enforcement details scheduled as needed.

Copley says motorists simply need to slow down to 20 mph when passing a school between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on a school day, even if children aren't visible.

"It is not the children you see that are in the most danger," Copley said. "It's the ones you don't see."

QPD began enforcing school speed zones in January 2005 after complaints about drivers speeding past schools, and several traffic incidents involving children and vehicles. Since then, officers have written more than 400 tickets, which can cost a driver up to $333.

In 2005, volunteers were used to discreetly run radar and take a survey of how many people were speeding past schools before and after enforcement. Traffic

Safety Officer Neal Meyer said

28 percent of all motorists were going more than 30 mph past Ellington School before enforcement began, and the number dropped to 11 percent after officers started writing tickets.

At Berrian, the percentage dropped from 23 to 9, and at Adams the percentages went from 17 to 6.

Copley says the enforcement initiative has worked, noting that surveys conducted last year showed drivers are slowing down more frequently on school days.

"I have to applaud the motoring public," Copley said. "We have written tickets to help it along, but they are the ones slowing down."

Berrian School Principal Jill Reis said school employees reported drivers were starting to go faster past the Eighth and Van Buren school toward the end of last school year. If faster driving patterns are noticed, Reis said she'll contact QPD.

"I do know it (school safety zones) affected me," Reis said. "I became much more aware of them when driving from my own house to Berrian."