This past Monday, March 8, I did my mom a favor and drove my nephew, Drew, to school. I live off State Road 64 and had to drive on Interstate 75 to get him to Braden River Middle School. I always make everyone put on their seatbelts and did this morning as well.
When we got to the Braden River Middle School, we had just driven into the parking lot with student drop-off loop — stop-and-go traffic as parents let their children out of the cars.
As we were stopped in the loop (school property), Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Dep. Dennis Mallardi tapped on Drew’s window and asked why his seatbelt was off. I explained that I am a stickler for seatbelts (another nephew had been tragically killed in a car crash years ago) and Drew had just unbuckled to get his backpack ready to depart the car.
Mallardi gave me a ticket for $116.
The deputies were set up on the school property in the parking lot and not even on River Club Boulevard.
As I was waiting for the ticket, I saw another woman in a van let go by another deputy. I asked Mallardi about that, and he said, “I don’t know what he (the other officer) is doing.”
I have already mailed my ticket in pleading not guilty and will fight this.
I don’t believe parents dropping children off on school property should be targets of the sheriff’s office. I have never been issued a ticket in Manatee County and have a clean driver license.
Editor’s note: Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dave Bristow said the agency focused on patrols near schools during the campaign because 68% of juveniles killed in car crashes are not wearing a seat belt or in a car seat. Bristow said the sheriff’s office had assigned “spotters” for the roadways, but deputies were not supposed to ticket in cases where individuals were on school grounds. The sheriff’s office received several complaints about ticketing on or around school grounds, and the office had suspended patrols there by about March 10.