Inattentive Sammamish drivers be warned
By KEVIN ENDEJAN
Issaquah Reporter Assistant editor
September 27, 2012 · 2:21 PM
Sammamish police officer Ryan Olmsted sees it every day — someone applying makeup, stuffing their face with a Big Mac, or brushing a dog in their lap — all while driving down the road.
While inattentive driving is never safe, the start of the school year presents a whole new set of concerns for Olmsted and other area officers.
“These kids are not thinking about watching for cars,” he said. “They’re thinking about everything else they’re going to do when they get home. If we’re not looking out for them, and they’re jumping into traffic, that’s not good.”
Since transferring from crime prevention in Newcastle three weeks ago, Olmsted has seen several close calls as Sammamish’s new traffic officer.
Recently, he responded to a dump truck colliding with a school bus in a traffic circle and a woman rear-ending a bus in front of a neighborhood stop. Fortunately, both incidents were at low speed and didn’t result in injuries.
“I would venture to guess that almost every collision out here, especially the rear-enders they’re distracted by something in their vehicle,” Olmsted said.
Speed is also a primary area of concern. With 16 schools atop the Plateau — most in heavily populated neighborhoods — Olmsted cautions that drivers need to pay attention to the yellow flashing lights.
“Twenty miles per hour is that critical point,” he said. “Once you’re 5 miles an hour over, your stopping distance increases greatly after that.”
Some zones might not have flashing school zone lights, but signs that say 20 mph when children are present. Olmsted advises drivers it only takes one child in the area — whether the on the sidewalk or in a playing field — to make going over 20 mph a violation.
According to statistics from the King County Sheriff’s Office, it takes a car traveling at 25 mph 84.7 feet to see an obstacle, react and come to a full stop. A car traveling at 40 mph takes 164 feet, roughly half the length of a football field, to react and stop.
So far, the fastest Olmsted has clocked a Sammamish driver is going 21 mph over the speed limit in a school zone on 228th Avenue Southeast, in front of Discovery Elementary. The ticket resulted in roughly a $500 fine.
Olmsted said the area is common for speeders and lane violations, as many drivers ignore the school zone and pass vehicles.
During a afternoon patrol Sept. 20, Olmsted stood outside Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary on the sidewalk with his LIDAR — a device that looks like binoculars and can specifically target a vehicle’s exact speed hundreds while yards away.
Blending in with the bushes, Olmsted found several people cruising above the posted 20 mph limit. On this day, he chose to simply motion for drivers to slow down or ask them to pull over for a brief lecture.
Olmsted said reasons for speeding generally tend to be the same, but are still inexcusable.
“So far, the most popular response is, ‘I didn’t realize I was in a school zone,” he said. “Probably most of the time it’s true, they’re simply just distracted by whatever they’re doing.”
Sammamish police officer Ryan Olmsted uses his LIDAR to watch traffic outside Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary.
Contact Issaquah Reporter Assistant editor Kevin Endejan at email@example.com or 425-391-0363, ext. 5054.