The Ambiguity of 20 MPH When Children Are Present

 

My wife and I discussed this weekend about the ambiguity of the school zone signs that read, "20 MPH when children are present." My understanding had been that if there are children actually visible that means 20 mph but otherwise the speed is the posted 35 mph for that street--even during regular school hours, Monday through Friday. My wife had the understanding that it means 20 mph at all times during regular school hours because children are present in the building during that time frame and by implication in that school zone. My wife is generally quite sensible about these things. So, when she mentions a strikingly different interpretation such as involving these school zone signs, I find myself in the research mode. An added complexity for the research is whether there could be speed zone cameras set up for these zones involving these "20 MPH when children are present" signs without a speed zone camera warning sign posted somewhere in that zone.

Edit:

Research Finding

Apparently, in Washington State, the "20 MPH when children are present" means 20 MPH at all times. For example, a Seattle article from 2007:

"The judge who reviewed her case stated that RCW 46.61.440 specifies that the speed limit in a school zone is always 20 MPH. The law appears to make no exception for time of day, nor does it honor posted exceptions such as "when children are/aren't present" or "when flashing".

As such, school districts and local municipalities that erect signs that imply a conditional speed limit are in effect misleading drivers into thinking that their posted signs supersede state law. Local law enforcement can in turn issue citations based off of drivers' ignorance of the details of state traffic law"

In California

Quote from the California Driver Handbook:

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/speed_limits.htm

"When driving within 500 to 1,000 feet of a school while children are outside or crossing the street, the speed limit is 25 mph unless otherwise posted. Also, if the school grounds have no fence and children are outside, never drive faster than 25 mph. Some school zones may have speed limits as low as 15 mph. Always drive more carefully near schools, playgrounds, parks, and residential areas because children may suddenly dart into the street. Also, many children have not yet developed the ability to judge speeds and distances well enough to cross streets safely when cars are moving fast."

The regulations are probably different for other States.

In Illinois

From Illinois Rules of the Road

Quote:

When approaching a marked school zone between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., on days when
school is in operation and children are present, a driver must discontinue wireless/cellphone
use, reduce speed to 20 mph, and stop and yield the right-of-way to any children
or adults in the crosswalk area.

I think children must be present to invoke the school zone speed limit.
Although the elementary school is several blocks away from the main highway, we have a school zone on the highway. When the yellow light is flashing, it means 20mph whether children are present or not.

--
1490LMT 1450LMT 295w

Just drive at the lower speed limit

Typically, school zone is only 1/4 mile long, or 1/2 mile at the most. Dropping the speed from 35 mph to 20 mph for 1/2 mile will only slow you down 2 minutes at the most. It probably takes longer just to wait for a red light. Just think about the cost of hitting someone at school zone any time of the day.

At the end of the day...

...It is the policeman's call whether or not you should have been going 20. Just like many things in life!

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NUVI40 Kingsport TN

CO / WA

I've never seen such a sign in Southcentral Washington. I've always seen the flashing amber lights, and it was 20MPH when the lights were flashing. It removes ambiguity, I think.

Colorado has the flashing amber lights visible from both sides, so the driver can tell where the 20MPH starts and where it ends.

But then, my paranoid thought tells me the ambiguity is excellent for the revenue enhancement based on traffic citations. I know I'm just paranoid....

--
nüvi 750 & 760

Texas Has

The Flashing Yellow Light. Speed resume at the next speed limit sign.

--
3790LMT; 2595LMT; 3590LMT, 60LMTHD

Virginia

In Virginia the speed limit is 25 mph, and only during certain times of the day. I go through two school zones on the way to work at 3:30pm and the lights are blinking. Usually there is a speed trap, and about once a week someone is getting a ticket. The elementary school has a deputy always present directing traffic.

entrapment?

LS wrote:

Apparently, in Washington State, the "20 MPH when children are present" means 20 MPH at all times. For example, a Seattle article from 2007:

"The judge who reviewed her case stated that RCW 46.61.440 specifies that the speed limit in a school zone is always 20 MPH. The law appears to make no exception for time of day, nor does it honor posted exceptions such as "when children are/aren't present" or "when flashing".

This is no different than posting a speed limit sign on an interstate reading "55 mph during daylight hours", then ticketing people who thought they could drive faster at night. We take for granted that road signs are telling us what the law is for the area, not coaxing us into breaking it! The judge who made that ruling should also have forced all "when children are present" signs to be replaced.

school speed zone

here is Ohio some sign read (DURING SCHOOL HOURS)

New Mexico code says "going to or leaving"

The New Mexico traffic code as amended says regarding school zones "fifteen miles per hour when passing a school while children are going to or leaving school and when the school zone is properly posted".

I am pretty confident that here "going to" means "arriving at", not "in attendance at".

To those advising we should all travel at the posted school zone speed, lights blinking or not, and children present or not, I suggest that the added hazard from congestion and the adverse actions of surprised or irate drivers would outweigh safety benefit. We have school zones on otherwise 40 mph roads, and we also have a supplementary rule forbidding one car from overtaking another while the school zone is active. Imagine the chaos. Happily I've never seen someone self-righteously making up their own rule to go slow contrary to the signage here.

--
personal GPS user since 1992

While you're at it...

Some drivers don't understand other safety related laws. When a school bus is stopped on a 4-lane road, traffic in the opposite direction does NOT have to stop. That can cause traffic accidents with other drivers that understand the laws not expecting a sudden stop.

The law in Illinois is that a driver needs to yield the right of way to an approaching emergency vehicle and if possible, safely move to the right lane on multi-lane roads. It does NOT say to unexpectedly, unnecessarily stop.

--
Zumo 550 & Zumo 665 My alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.

.

dave817 wrote:

Some drivers don't understand other safety related laws. When a school bus is stopped on a 4-lane road, traffic in the opposite direction does NOT have to stop. That can cause traffic accidents with other drivers that understand the laws not expecting a sudden stop.

The law in Illinois is that a driver needs to yield the right of way to an approaching emergency vehicle and if possible, safely move to the right lane on multi-lane roads. It does NOT say to unexpectedly, unnecessarily stop.

In Virginia, traffic in the opposite direction DOES have to stop unless there is a physical barrier or median.

Very true

Motorcycle Mama wrote:

...

In Virginia, traffic in the opposite direction DOES have to stop unless there is a physical barrier or median.

Very true. We all need to follow our state's (and local) regulations. If in doubt in your state or when visiting other states, err on the side of caution.

Illinois

Illinois law.

Quote:

On a four-lane roadway where a bus is stopped in the opposite direction from which
you are traveling, you are not required to stop your vehicle but you should drive with
caution.

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1490LMT 1450LMT 295w

considerable variation by state

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the linked document, but suspect at the very least that it conveys correctly the broad range of state laws regarding the details of requirements on drivers to stop for a school bus.

http://www.nasdpts.org/Operations/documents/State_Laws_Regar...

So we all should be cautious in citing our knowledge particular to our own states as though it applied elsewhere.

--
personal GPS user since 1992

California -- School Bus

California Driver Handbook:

"If the school bus is on the other side of a divided or multilane highway (two or more lanes in each direction), you do not need to stop."

Quote:

Stopped school buses and children crossing the street. Some school buses flash yellow lights when preparing to stop to let children off the bus. The yellow flashing lights warn you to slow down and prepare to stop. When the bus flashes red lights (located at the top front and back of the bus), you must stop from either direction until the children are safely across the street and the lights stop flashing. The law requires you remain stopped as long as the red lights are flashing (CVC §22454). If you fail to stop, you may be fined up to $1,000 and your driving privilege could be suspended for one year. If the school bus is on the other side of a divided or multilane highway (two or more lanes in each direction), you do not need to stop.

Saving

Saving your link. Thanks

--
1490LMT 1450LMT 295w

Cash grabs NOT safety...

The same thing has happened in Winnipeg, MB, Canada with "Maximum 60 kph when workers present". Mobile speed cams have tagged motorists at 3 am on a Sunday and the tickets have been upheld in court (so far at least).

Strictly a cash grab here. There was a mobile speed cam in a school zone at 11:00 am on December 25, to protect our children. Sure it was...

LS wrote:

My wife and I discussed this weekend about the ambiguity of the school zone signs that read, "20 MPH when children are present." My understanding had been that if there are children actually visible that means 20 mph but otherwise the speed is the posted 35 mph for that street--even during regular school hours, Monday through Friday. My wife had the understanding that it means 20 mph at all times during regular school hours because children are present in the building during that time frame and by implication in that school zone. My wife is generally quite sensible about these things. So, when she mentions a strikingly different interpretation such as involving these school zone signs, I find myself in the research mode. An added complexity for the research is whether there could be speed zone cameras set up for these zones involving these "20 MPH when children are present" signs without a speed zone camera warning sign posted somewhere in that zone.

Edit:

Research Finding

Apparently, in Washington State, the "20 MPH when children are present" means 20 MPH at all times. For example, a Seattle article from 2007:

"The judge who reviewed her case stated that RCW 46.61.440 specifies that the speed limit in a school zone is always 20 MPH. The law appears to make no exception for time of day, nor does it honor posted exceptions such as "when children are/aren't present" or "when flashing".

As such, school districts and local municipalities that erect signs that imply a conditional speed limit are in effect misleading drivers into thinking that their posted signs supersede state law. Local law enforcement can in turn issue citations based off of drivers' ignorance of the details of state traffic law"

In Ontario, You Must Stop For Both Directions

dave817 wrote:

Some drivers don't understand other safety related laws. When a school bus is stopped on a 4-lane road, traffic in the opposite direction does NOT have to stop. That can cause traffic accidents with other drivers that understand the laws not expecting a sudden stop.

The law in Illinois is that a driver needs to yield the right of way to an approaching emergency vehicle and if possible, safely move to the right lane on multi-lane roads. It does NOT say to unexpectedly, unnecessarily stop.

In Ontario you must stop in both directions, for school buses, that have the their lights flashing, regardless of the number of lanes or the speed limit, unless there is a barrier.

For Emergency Vehicles, we must yield to them and move to the right lane and stop if safe to do so.

We also must change lanes, or slow down for police, or emergency vehicles that are stopped for a traffic violation or emergency issue.

--
NUVI2555LMT, NUVI350

Tennessee

"When driving on a highway with separate roadways for traffic in opposite directions, divided by median space or barrier not suitable for vehicular traffic, the driver need not stop but should proceed with caution."

Otherwise approaching a school or church bus from the front, you must stop.

--
NUVI40 Kingsport TN

faulty tuning

While the state legislatures need the ability to tune legal restrictions to local conditions (and for that matter to experiment), I think this is a case where the cacophony of local variation creates more hazard than it resolves, as many of us don't actually know our own local rules, and well-nigh none of us would know the local rule when travelling elsewhere.

I don't advocate a federal restriction barring these variations, but hope legislators hear some questioning voices.

People hauling down to halt on a major thoroughfare because they remember a law elsewhere requiring them to are an active hazard when the local commuters are long and legally accustomed to passing right on for the specific configuration at hand.

--
personal GPS user since 1992

The actual law in WA state

LS wrote:

My wife and I discussed this weekend about the ambiguity of the school zone signs that read, "20 MPH when children are present." My understanding had been that if there are children actually visible that means 20 mph but otherwise the speed is the posted 35 mph for that street--even during regular school hours, Monday through Friday. My wife had the understanding that it means 20 mph at all times during regular school hours because children are present in the building during that time frame and by implication in that school zone. My wife is generally quite sensible about these things. So, when she mentions a strikingly different interpretation such as involving these school zone signs, I find myself in the research mode. An added complexity for the research is whether there could be speed zone cameras set up for these zones involving these "20 MPH when children are present" signs without a speed zone camera warning sign posted somewhere in that zone.

Edit:

Research Finding

Apparently, in Washington State, the "20 MPH when children are present" means 20 MPH at all times. For example, a Seattle article from 2007:

"The judge who reviewed her case stated that RCW 46.61.440 specifies that the speed limit in a school zone is always 20 MPH. The law appears to make no exception for time of day, nor does it honor posted exceptions such as "when children are/aren't present" or "when flashing".

As such, school districts and local municipalities that erect signs that imply a conditional speed limit are in effect misleading drivers into thinking that their posted signs supersede state law. Local law enforcement can in turn issue citations based off of drivers' ignorance of the details of state traffic law"

That is incorrect sir. From MRSC.ORG

Question:
What does the sign "WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT" mean when placed beneath a school speed limit sign?

Answer:
WAC 468-95-335 states: "The supplemental or lower panel of a "SCHOOL SPEED LIMIT 20" sign which reads "WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT" shall indicate to the motorist that the 20-mile per hour school speed limit is in force under the following conditions:

School children occupying or walking within the marked crosswalk.
School children are waiting at the curb or on the shoulder of the roadway and are about to cross the road by way of the marked crosswalk.
School children are present or walking along the roadway, either on the adjacent sidewalk or, in the absence of sidewalks, on the shoulder within the posted school speed limit zone extending 300 feet, or other distance established by regulation, in either direction from the marked crosswalk.

And What Happens

on a school holiday???

Fred

Or Snow Day?

FZbar wrote:

on a school holiday???

Fred

Pennsylvania uses flashing yellow 15 MPH speed limit signs for school zones which are programmed for time of day, day of week and the school year. The programming is not updated for schedule changes like snow days or holiday observance. The police WILL ticket you if the signs are flashing even though school is not in session.

As this thread has demonstrated, the laws vary greatly from state to state. The best bet is to just obey the signs.

Not sure about supplemental signs...

But any other simply label 'School Zone' is in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in New York.

--
Striving to make the NYC Metro area project the best.

School Zones and Playground Zones

camerabob wrote:

But any other simply label 'School Zone' is in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in New York.

I have seen signs that have four or five lines of print, indicating the specific times when School Zone speed limits are in effect. This is somewhat crazy because the lettering is so small, a driver would be distracted trying to read the sign.

The government in Alberta is considering blending the School Zone and Playground signs. That would make all signed areas 30 km per hour from sunrise till sunset.

and what would

DanielT wrote:

The government in Alberta is considering blending the School Zone and Playground signs. That would make all signed areas 30 km per hour from sunrise till sunset.

be the situation in the Yukon in June?

--
Illiterate? Write for free help.