In what may turn out to be a symbolic gesture, Evanston aldermen Monday adopted an ordinance that more than doubles the minimum fine for speeding in a school zone.

Until now such violations have been handled under state law, which provides a minimum fine of $150, plus a $50 penalty paid to the school district and court costs.

The new Evanston ordinance, proposed by Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, sets the minimum fine at $500, plus the $50 payment to the school.

Corporation Council Grant Farrar told aldermen that in nearly all cases now handled under the state law at Skokie district court, the offense is amended to a simple speeding violation that carries a lower fine with no payment to the schools.

He says most such tickets involve drivers with relatively clean records, and the judges are reluctant to impose the higher school zone violation penalties.

The new city ordinance means that if police issue tickets under the ordinance rather than state law, the cases would initially be heard in the city’s administrative hearings division rather than in Skokie district court.

But decisions of the administrative hearing officers, Farrar noted, can be appealed to the district court, and it’s not clear whether, in the end, the penalties speeders receive will be much different.

The new ordinance, like the state statute, requires drivers to slow to 20 miles per hour between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. in posted school zones on school days when children are present outside the school building.

The text of the ordinance is available online.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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