With the start of the new school year, the California Highway Patrol will be increasing patrol and enforcement in school zones beginning Wednesday.

“The public needs to be aware that school is back in session and to slow down when passing schools when children are present,” officer Dan Barba of the Santa Barbara CHP office said. “Our primary concern is the safety of children coming to and from school, and our best way for ensuring this safety is strict compliance and enforcement of the 25 mph school zone speed.”

In addition, six county schools (Montecito Union, Cold Spring School, Foothill School, Isla Vista School, La Colina Junior High and San Marcos High) have been designated double-fine zones and motorists caught speeding near those schools face a fine near $200.

Several other area schools recently have been designated as 15 mph zones thanks to Assembly Bill 321 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara.

It is also of the utmost importance that parents talk to their children about pedestrian and bicycle safety as the new school year begins, such as crossing the street correctly, riding bicycles on the right side of the road and ensuring that children riding bicycles or riding skateboards to school are wearing a safety helmet, which is required by law. 

Additionally, anytime drivers come upon a school bus with its red lights flashing, state law requires that they stop their vehicles before passing the school bus and remain stopped until the red lights are off (does not apply to divided or multiple-lane highways). Those caught passing a school bus with its red lights flashing face a maximum fine of about $560. For any second offense, the fine increases to about $1,000.

Daniel Barba is a public affairs officer for the California Highway Patrol.