Road Rules – School Zones

 Washington enforces 20 mph speed limits in school zones. Some people contend that the “when children are present” signs create confusion about when the law applies. In the Washington law, “when children are present” refers to children’s proximity to the road.

The reduced speed limit applies when you see children walking along the road or on the sidewalk, in a crosswalk, or waiting on the curb to cross the street. The law applies equally to school hours and after-school events (like kids getting out of sports practice). Washington law further spells out that the zone extends 300 feet, or other distance established by regulation, in either direction from a marked crosswalk. (For reference, a football field is 360 feet long, including the end zones.)

When the sign is accompanied by flashing lights, you’re required to slow down regardless of the time of day and whether or not anyone is near the road.

But here’s where things get tricky

Washington’s Maximum Speed Limit When Passing School or Playground Crosswalks says, “…it shall be unlawful for the operator of any vehicle to operate the same at a speed in excess of twenty miles per hour when operating any vehicle upon a highway either inside or outside an incorporated city or town when passing any marked school or playground crosswalk when such marked crosswalk is fully posted with standard school speed limit signs or standard playground speed limit signs.”

Neither of those laws mention “when children are present.”

The best advice: Slowing to 20 mph around schools is a safe call. It will add only seconds to your trip and may save you a citation – and even more important, it could save a life.

-From Pemco Perspective Newsletter, Sept 2017

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