'It catches them off guard. I've had them eat the onion right in front of me,' said Colonel Lou Caputo.
A sheriff's deputy dressed up as the Grinch and handed out onions as a warning to several drivers who were caught speeding in an elementary school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. Colonel Lou Caputo — a veteran of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office with 37 years of service—came up with the tradition more than 20 years ago. Caputo got back out into the streets dressed up in green ahead of the 2022 holidays to catch drivers who travel about 5mph or less above the school zone speed limit. If caught, drivers are given the option to choose between traffic tickets or an onion. According to The Guardian, anyone traveling more than 5mph above the speed limit would receive a pricey ticket.
Florida Keys sheriff's office Colonel Lou Caputo, costumed as the Grinch, working with Deputy Andrew Leird, checks the speed of motorists traveling through a school zone on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway yesterday in Marathon in the Middle Keys. pic.twitter.com/H3BFq58kpC— The Florida Keys (@thefloridakeys) December 14, 2022
"It's about education, awareness that our school zones are still operating even though it’s the holiday season," Caputo said. "We want people to slow down." Caputo explained that he plays the Dr. Seuss character to offer drivers a "gift" while also gently drawing their attention to the importance of adhering to speed restrictions in school zones. "It catches them off guard," Caputo said. "But when I give them a clear choice of a citation or the onion, they will take the onion. And I've had them eat the onion right in front of me." The now-annual event aims to inform motorists about the dangers of speeding in a school zone. Additionally, it serves as a reminder that Keys schools are open until December 16. In a video shared on the MCSO's Facebook page, Deputy Andrew Lierd stated that authorities are "trying to spread the word about traffic safety in the school zone, and beyond."
According to Getdismissed, a website that offers guidance on whether to fight a ticket, school zone speed limitations are meant "to protect kids during recess, before school, and after school." In light of this, the website states: "It only makes sense that drivers need to go slower, so they have enough time to stop in case of a child steps into the street." Although the Florida deputy uses a comical strategy to discourage speeding in school zones, failing to remain cautious in defined zones and crosswalks can have disastrous results.
An eight-year-old child lost his life in September 2022 after being hit by a pickup truck while riding his bicycle in a crosswalk in Orange County, California, reports KTTV. Bradley Rofer was "passing the crosswalk" when he was hit by a 1999 Ford F-150. The pickup driver reportedly remained at the scene of the accident and cooperated with officers. Although Bradley had a helmet on, the youngster still suffered serious injuries. He underwent surgery at Mission Hospital after being transported there. In a Facebook post shared days later, his family stated that he had been taken off life support.
"Our beautiful boy Bradley Rofer is now an angel in heaven," his mom, Josette Rofer, said in a post. In a prior post, shared before his passing, she said that Bradley was "truly special and one of a kind."
"We feel so honored and blessed that Bradley will leave this world with the mitzvah of saving lives," she added. "We will live through our wonderful memories of Bradley and all that he taught us about life. We were blessed to have almost 9 meaningful and wonderful years with him that we will forever treasure. May his memory always be a blessing."