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Trooper with radar gun has vital role

Melissa Topey • Mar 10, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Meadowlawn School becomes awfully crowded twice a day, with parents dropping off or picking up kids as school buses do the same.

The Ohio State Patrol Sandusky post is out there during these times monitoring the speed of the traffic traveling down Strub Road.

I was freezing Thursday morning as I worked with Trooper Shane Zehnder at the school for this week’s On The Job. But it was to make sure people were driving slow, thereby protecting the kids, so I didn’t mind much. I was, however, jumping around to keep warm.

“I do enjoy this,” Zehnder said of his duties at the school. “It is effective. The public sees you are there, watching the school”

Our first order of business was to drive past the school to make sure both school zone lights were on. We then doubled back, took our position in the entryway of the drive of Meadowlawn Church of Christ and stepped out of the warm cruiser.

The trooper’s mere presence causes cars to slow down. But just in case, Zehnder showed me how to use the laser gun. That thing is accurate, people — sorry, you can try to argue your way out of a speeding ticket, but I think you may lose. The troopers are also not relying on the gun alone. They are trained to judge speed and become pretty good at it.

Troopers can testify before a judge not only about the speed registered by the gun but also about their own judgment of a car’s speed.

I tried my hand at it, estimating a passing car’s speed at 17 mph. Zehnder was impressed, I think.

“It’s not that hard, is it?” he said.

To start our morning, we used the laser gun to read the speed of cars at the far end of the school zone as well as the end closest to us.

Using the gun is as simple as pointing it between the headlights of a car — a red locator dot seen in the gun’s scope will let you know if you’re on target — and squeezing the trigger.

The readout will either give you a speed or an error reading. The gun also makes a tone to indicate whether you have a good reading or not.

Most people were fine.

“Most people are aware, and most want to do the right thing, but on occasion a driver gets in a hurry or their mind wanders,” Zehnder said.

All they need is a reminder.

Running the gun, I tracked probably about 10 cars, with the slowest going about 15 mph in the school zone.

I did track one driver going 31 mph, but because I was on the gun, we couldn’t make the stop.

To whomever that driver was: Slow down when driving past the schools. You never know when a child may dart out. It happened at York School in Bellevue some years ago when a young boy was tragically killed after running out onto U.S. 20 before a teacher could stop him.

You can also thank me for not getting busted. If Zehnder had been on the gun, you would have been pulled over.

That driver would have been just one mile per hour away from a court appearance, which is automatic for any driver caught going 12 mph over the speed limit in a school zone.

We didn’t run into the same problem with the next speeder.

After we moved inside the cruiser to warm up, Zehnder took over on the gun and registered a woman in a red Ford Explorer traveling down Strub Road at 28 mph. Once he realized how fast she was going, he jumped out of the cruiser to flag her into the church’s driveway.

He talked to her, reminded her she had to slow down in a school zone and gave her a written warning.

“You jumped out of that car pretty quick,” I observed afterward.

“I am still spry,” he laughed.

During recess, the kids play outside in the parking lot, so troopers try to be in the area during that time as well.

Rain, shine or in the freezing cold.

All in a day’s work to keep the kids safe.

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