North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

By Peter Barrett
Safety First 

School zone reminders for drivers

With schools back in session soon, be sure to pay attention to school zone signage and restrictions.

 


Parents and teens, school is coming up soon, which means school zones are going to be in effect, and will be patrolled and enforced accordingly. Here are a few words of advice as we make it into the beginning of September.

As a refresher, please be reminded that school zones limit your vehicle speed to 20 mph, and they begin and end with at least 300 feet away from the school building or crosswalks. They are always marked with signs, and often times those signs will have flashing signals to alert you. The signs will often state the hours that the school zone is in effect, or they might tell you that the school zone is effective "when children are present." It is possible the sign could state both, in an attempt to tell you when the most common hours are for small children and teens to be on foot near the school grounds.

Either way, please be aware that it is the responsibility of the driver to identify the school zone and to obey the speed laws when in them. Also, be aware that school zones that have the speed restriction in place "When Children are Present" can be enforced by police at any time of day if a child is in that school zone, even the late evening hours when it is unexpected. School zone signs like this are commonly placed in locations where the area around the school grounds is highly residential, or if the school grounds are frequently used for other activities, community events, and sporting events.

By requiring a 20 mph speed limit, drivers have a much greater chance of reacting and avoiding children and road hazards. In fact, studies have shown that by driving 30 mph in a school zone, your stopping distance will basically double. Most people do not realize there is such a huge increase in their overall stopping distance because of that 10 mph increase; however, it is the combination of reaction plus braking distance that can make that 10 mph increase so dangerous. In class, we explain to our new drivers that your stopping distance increases from approximately 40 feet at 20 mph, up to approximately 75 feet at 30 mph. That extra 35 feet could be the difference between life and death for a young child.

In regards to the reason the speed limit is reduced to 20 mph, it is because of the need for greater safety around the areas most likely to have children on the loose. As we teach in our classes, children are unpredictable in their actions and behavior, and they can be difficult to see from a moving vehicle. In fact, children have only two-thirds of the peripheral vision that adults have and they can have difficulty determining the source of a sound. They are still learning to judge distances and speeds. When a car is coming towards them, they cannot judge accurately how fast it is traveling or how long it will take to cover the distance. In addition, children often act before fully thinking of the consequences, and so we want drivers to use IPDE principles (Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute) to be prepared to make the proper decisions and take evasive maneuvers if necessary.

Last, but not least, are the penalties for violating school zone speed restrictions. Besides the increased insurance costs that will occur, a speeding ticket for a school zone violation for traveling 25 mph (5 mph over the speed limit) will cost you $186, while 30 mph (10 mph over the speed limit) will set you back $248. This should be incentive for everyone to slow it down just a bit.

So, as we all move into the Back to School phase, please slow down and raise your awareness levels on all streets and roadways, but particularly as you get to the areas around the schools and into the marked school zones. Additionally, please give yourself an extra 10 or 15 minutes each morning so that you are not rushed. Proper planning and preparation for this busy time of year will help us to avoid a lot of stress, and it will result in a better, safer commute to work and school.

Thanks and enjoy the last weeks of summer.

 

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