Traffic around Riverside-Brookfield High School gets congested in the morning as parents drop off their kids on March 22.David Pierini/Staff Photographer

If you’re a parent driving your kids to school in Riverside this year, you may want to follow traffic and parking rules in school zones. Dozens of drivers have learned that the hard way since the beginning of 2013, when police began intensive targeted enforcement campaigns, especially near schools.

Since Jan. 1 at the Central School/Hauser Junior High campus alone, Riverside police have issued 42 parking tickets and written 13 tickets for moving violations during drop-off and pick-up times in front of and behind the schools.

From Feb. 22 to March 2, police in unmarked vehicles at Riverside-Brookfield High School wrote 10 moving violation tickets — including one to a driver who nearly hit another vehicle while making a U-turn on Ridgewood Road — and 11 tickets to parents who ignored the “no parking here to corner” zone near First Avenue on Ridgewood.

Finally, from March 13 to 18, police stationed themselves along several problem areas, including near Blythe Park School, Central School, Desplaines Avenue and at the Longcommon/Kent intersection.

In that one-week period, police wrote 25 citations for a variety of offenses, from using a cellphone in a school zone to illegal parking to speeding. Police ticketed one driver for traveling at 63 mph on Desplaines Avenue and another for hitting 47 mph on Longcommon Road.

According to Police Chief Thomas Weitzel, the targeted enforcement blitzes were the result, in part, of complaints generated by residents and by parents who said they witnessed reckless driving in those areas.

Weitzel said that when police are on the scene in clearly marked vehicles, the problems don’t appear to be so bad. But when police sent officers in unmarked vehicles, they noticed drivers were more apt to engage in dangerous behavior.

“It seems like parents are better behaved when there’s a uniformed officer there,” said Weitzel. “We get the complaints after we leave, but we can’t always be there.”

By putting officers in unmarked cars and having a zero-tolerance policy for traffic offenders, Weitzel said, “We’re hoping to get a clear message out. And we’re still only stopping the most flagrant violators.”

During the week or so that police were stationed near Riverside-Brookfield High School, officers documented a host of dangerous incidents, including one near head-on crash, a student who was nearly struck by a vehicle making a U-turn, people driving in the wrong lane, students exiting vehicles stopped in left-turn lanes and double parking on Ridgewood Road, among others.

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