Teen hit by car urges drivers to slow down as students go back to school

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The Columbus Division of Police Motorcycle Unit is targeting drivers speeding through school zones as students go back to school.

Police say they have a zero tolerance policy for drivers who ignore the 20 miles per hour speed limit because speed can drastically affect how quickly a driver can stop their vehicle and avoid an accident.

"It could be the difference between a child getting struck, or not," said Columbus Police Sergeant Joe Curmode.

In the 2016-17 school year, the motorcycle unit visited 375 schools and wrote 1371 citations for speeding in a school zone. Police say that number is down from previous years when officers wrote more than two thousand citations annually.

Police say the number of citations dipped because the fall of 2016 was an election year and the motorcycle unit was tasked with providing safety escorts for candidates on the campaign trail. Police say the unit is now back in full force encouraging drivers to slow down in school zones.

"The stopping distance for a vehicle going 35 miles an hour is almost twice the stopping distance of a vehicle traveling 20 miles an hour," explained Sgt. Curmode.

Police say Hilliard Darby High School student, Leah Roth, is the perfect example of why drivers need to slow down. On October 22, 2015, the teen was on her way to school and walking in the crosswalk when she was hit by a car.

"The car kind of slowed down because I think the woman saw me but then she clipped my book bag and my book bag was pretty big and bulky and the next thing I know I'm on the ground," said Roth.

The teen said she was walking to school early for a meeting, and crossing the street before the flashing yellow lights were activated. Police say regardless, the driver that struck Leah was actually traveling less than 20 miles per hour when the accident happened.

Leah's mother says her daughter's close call is proof drivers need to slow down and pay attention in school zones.

"What if that was your child walking across the street? Would you be in that much of a hurry still? No kids' life is worth a missed five minutes," said Teri Bennett.

Police say in addition to following the 20 miles per hour school zone speed limit, drivers should eliminate distractions, always give children the right-of-way, and come to a complete stop at crosswalks.