Riverside police handed eight motorists $120 tickets – carrying a mandatory court appearance – for talking on a cellphone while driving in a school zone on Dec. 1. The tickets were written during an unprecedented enforcement blitz by police during a one-hour span at dismissal time outside Central School and Hauser Junior High on Woodside Road.

Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said officers will conduct similar enforcement sweeps at other village schools in the future. Police took action, said Weitzel, after getting complaints from school parents about other parents driving through the pickup and drop-off zone in front of the school while on their cellphones or sending text messages.

Riverside police officers on foot identified the motorists and their vehicles and radioed the information to police waiting up ahead in squad cars.

“We received one complaint from someone who got a ticket,” said Weitzel. That person reportedly complained that information about a new Illinois law banning hand-held cellphones within school zones was not publicized widely.

On Jan. 1, the state of Illinois banned talking on hand-held cellphones in school zones and completely prohibited texting while driving. All of the citations handed out on Dec. 1 were for using cellphones, Weitzel said.

In September, students at Ames School held signs warning motorists for a couple of days before and after school to put down their cellphones while driving.

While the new laws have garnered some press, Weitzel said he’d like signs posted within school zones to warn motorists of the law.

“Surprisingly, the vast majority of drivers stated that they were not aware of the law,” Weitzel said.

One of those caught using a cellphone was arrested for driving on a revoked license. The 37-year-old Forest View man’s license was revoked for an out-of-state conviction, Weitzel said.

“We’ll do it at other schools in the future, but we will not announce it,” Weitzel said. Police did notify District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson of the enforcement effort prior to deploying officers.

While Riverside police routinely use state grants to do targeted seatbelt and DUI enforcement, the school zone enforcement effort was not grant-funded, according to Weitzel.

Police also did not use grant funds in a recent crackdown on speeders on First Avenue. In recent weeks, Riverside police have handed out nearly 40 tickets for speeding along the busy state highway that runs next to Riverside-Brookfield High School.

Complaints from residents, including a woman whose car was rear-ended as she was making a right turn from First Avenue onto Ridgewood Road in heavy traffic before school, prompted the enforcement effort, Weitzel said.

On three separate occasions between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m., a police officer on foot was equipped with a laser device to clock vehicle speeds. Like the cellphone enforcement effort, that officer radioed vehicle information to officers in nearby chase vehicles.

In every instance police gave a driver a ticket, that person was going at least 50 mph in the 35 mph zone near the high school. In one instance the motorist was going 67 mph.

The fine for speeding 15 mph over the limit is a minimum of $120, said Weitzel. Going 30 mph over the limit triggers a mandatory court date.