Drivers who tend to ignore school speed zones better watch out because a new program at seven Miami-Dade senior high schools aims to catch violators.
The Miami-Dade School Board and Metropolitan Planning Organization have installed solar-powered speed display signs at the following high schools: American, Coral Gables, John A. Ferguson, Felix Varela, Dr. Michael M. Krop, G. Holmes Braddock and Coral Reef.
The signs, which are permanently mounted, have built-in radars that show the speed of approaching cars and alert those driving too fast. The seven schools taking part in the pilot program were chosen specifically because they are located in high traffic areas prone to pedestrian accidents. There will also be more police at the schools to enforce speeding violations.
``I've always been very, very concerned about making sure that the students are safe going in and out of the school,'' said School Board member Perla Tabares Hantman, who pushed for the safety initiative. ``My hope is that the drivers pay attention and slow down during the designated times.''
Signs recently went up at American High School on Dec. 10, but Principal Luis Diaz said the signs and increased police enforcement have already made a huge difference.
``You see the travelers taking notice and slowing down,'' he said. ``If you have 2,200 students walking into and out of an area, there's a lot of possibility of dangers. These signs are a huge plus for us in regards to safety.''
Hantman, who also happens to be the vice-chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, has worked on the safety initiative since 2008, when she lobbied for a $105,000 Florida Department of Transportation grant to help buy the signs.
After receiving the grant in May, school board and MPO officials helped speed the program.
The sign manufacturer plans to donate more signs within the next two or three months, at which point Hantman hopes to expand the program to include Hialeah Gardens High, Booker T. Washington High, Carol City High, Henry Flagler Elementary and Eugenia B. Thomas K-8.
``I think this is something that is prudent to do countywide -- for safety of the children,'' she said.
Michael Krop Principal Matthew Welker said he's grateful to have received the new speed sign, especially because there are no school speed zones at the high school.