Friday, December 18, 2009

Slow (comma) children present

I have some issues with School Zones.

First of all, why are the circumstances under which the Speed limit is reduced to 20 MPH different for each school? When children are present. School days 7am to 5pm. When flashing. When the third moon of Jupiter is in its second phase.

I like the flashing yellow light because it does not require me to back up and re-read the sign and there is no way to misinterpret that boldly blinking orb.

On the other hand, does "when children are present" encompass only the times when you can physically see children, or is that supposed to mean "during times of the day when children could possibly be in the vicinity of this school"?

And the sign specifying hours on school days doesn't give me the break from a snail's pace on any teacher work day I'm not aware of.

Secondly, I find that being forced to drive 20 miles per hour only gives a false sense of security.  At that dreadfully slow speed, I become easily entranced with a bird flitting about in the soccer field or a leaf caught mercilessly under my windshield wiper. The world becomes distracting when I'm not moving fast enough to require focus on the road.

But here's the biggest concern I have by far. It's similar to the first one, regarding a lack of consistency.  But rather than circumstances, this is about existence. In my town, there is a giant upper-elementary school (it looks big enough to be a high school but has only 4th and 5th graders enrolled) that boasts a half-mile school zone, coordinated by lovely flashing lights at both ends. I miss this one as long as I'm on time getting Madelyn to school, but have to drive through it on my way home.  I might see one or two children along that half-mile route on a good day, and the actual school building is at least 50 yards away from the road.  In addition, the entire campus is enclosed by a chain link fence, meaning that once on the property, students are only in danger of being struck by a vehicle in the parking lot.

Several blocks away is the relatively new "Community School."  This is a "free public charter school" in our district, which means it's paid for by taxes but runs more like a hippie-ish private school (and I mean that in a good way).  The school is housed in a quaint commercial building along one of the "downtown" streets of our small city.  Every morning on my way home from dropping Madelyn off, I drive along the two-lane, major one-way street in front of the Community School.  And every morning I see at least a dozen children on the sidewalks around the building, parking their bikes in front, or being escorted across the street by a parent.  I don't think this school even has a parking lot to speak of, and I highly doubt there is bus service, so parents pull into street parking spaces and shuffle their kids across to school if the children don't just walk there.  

There is no school zone for the Community School. Not one sign indicating to reduce speed for these particular students.  The front door of the school is literally a stone's throw from the cars passing by. So why doesn't the Community School get a School Zone when the safety of those children is clearly much more compromised due to its proximity to the street?

I really don't think that School Zones magically create a safe environment. I even admitted that I think in some ways only a false sense of protection is achieved. But it seems like if these zones are going to exist, it should be consistent, or if anything, they should only be enforced where danger from nearby traffic truly does exist!

At least Oregon repealed that crazy law we briefly had to endure which mandated School Zones be in effect "at all times."  Twenty miles per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Just in case there are some kids having a cram session on the playground at 2am on Sunday night, you know.  I'll be happy with my flashing yellow lights, thank you.


KimberlyGanir said...

Uugh, I'm so with you on this one. I got a ticket once for speeding!! going 25, in a school zone on a saturday once! There were not kids in sight! My sign was the one with the "when children are present". I was so mad. It's totally ridiculous!!

Bridget said...

How weird about the community school.


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