Is that a school zone on Sedgwick Road?

The in basket: Dave Dahlke of South Kitsap thinks the school zone on Sedgwick Road at Converse Avenue is not allowed by state law.

“RCW 46.61.440 (2) states the qualifications for such a zone,” he said, quoting from section 2 of that law, which reads.

“A county or incorporated city or town may create a school or playground speed zone on a highway bordering a marked school or playground, in which zone it is unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle at a speed in excess of 20 miles per hour. The school or playground speed zone may extend three hundred feet from the border of the school or playground property; however, the speed zone may only include (an) area consistent with active school or playground use’.

“This school zone is nowhere near Hidden Creek Elementary School,” he said. “I have to believe that powers to be are using these lights to allow school buses easier access to Sedgwick since they don’t want to travel out to Bethel and then to Sedgwick.  This seems to me to violate the intent of the RCW.  If the intent was to allow students to walk to school across Sedgwick then I believe a flashing sidewalk should be used, as is used at the Jackson Avenue/ Lund Avenue park.”

The out basket: Dave raised this question Oct. 1 and three months of intermittent inquiries to the state office of public instruction, SK schools, police agencies and the state highway department haven’t provided a clear answer.

Dave didn’t mention the law’s Section 1, which precedes the section he cites and says it is, “unlawful for the operator of any vehicle to operate the same at a speed in excess of 20 miles per hour when operating any vehicle … when passing any marked school or playground crosswalk when such marked crosswalk is fully posted with standard school speed limit signs … The speed zone at the crosswalk shall extend 300 feet in either direction from the marked crosswalk.”

The term school zone isn’t mentioned until Section 2. And the conflicting use of the words “shall” and “may’ as regards the 300-foot distance of the speed restriction gives the impression that two paragraphs were written without regard to making them agree.

Nathan Olson, who handles transportation issues for the SPI’s office, told me, “Are we doing a bit of parsing here? As I read 46.41.440 (1), I see that it allows for a “school … crosswalk.” Is that the same thing as a “school zone,” or is it a crosswalk designed to keep kids safe as they cross a busy highways? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I’ll do some digging.”

It’s hard to believe, given the doubling of the fine for speeding in a school zone and the law’s prohibition of reducing it in court, that this issue hasn’t been adjudicated somewhere. Sedgwick isn’t the only place with a school zone removed from the school. Just in this county, Bremerton has one on Sylvan Way and there used to be one on Finn Hill Road in Poulsbo.

But Nathan’s digging, which included a call to the state transportation department, produced no clarification of the legal underpinnings of school zones not adjacent to schools.

Dave even heard directly from Steve Bennett, the state’s traffic operations engineer for this area, but he essentially just restated the question.

“You are correct,” he wrote. The zone was put into place over a decade ago to facilitate the crossing of the highway by children going to and from Hidden Creek Elementary.  Hidden Creek however,  is 2,100 feet from the highway.”

So I guess the bottom line is that unless you want to pay a double fine or argue in court that that’s a school zone and the law doesn’t allow for such school zones, I’d say you should do what the sign says.

2 thoughts on “Is that a school zone on Sedgwick Road?

  1. I live near Hidden Creek Elementary School and would love to see a flashing sidewalk for crossing Sedgwick. I’ve seen little kids waiting to cross there, and it looks terrifying to me. I can only imagine how scary it must be for them. Most cars that I’ve observed on Sedgwick do slow down, but the traffic flow can be heavy, making it a long wait to cross.

    1. There should be no wait, because if I understand the law and I could be wrong, traffic is supposed to yield to all pedestrians until they have crossed. but if you say that they wait for long periods of time before crossing, then I commend them for not stepping out into traffic just because they have the right of way. I think that is more scary than kids waiting for traffic to stop and that is traffic being stopped for those who just step out into traffic.

      Another note is if this is a school zone or not and there are kids and even adults waiting to cross the road to go to the school, where is your safety patrol. We have safety patrol over here in Central Valley that control the crosswalks and there are no flashing lights. They will even control the intersection a little bit to allow kids to cross the road on the Walk signal to keep cars from making right turns on red. Now while little kids do this, it is monitored by adults. They just stick their little stop flags out when they have a gap, because yes even though it is a school zone and there are kids in a crosswalk waiting to cross some cars do not stop. And the kids or adults do not cross until the monitor has stopped traffic. But this is only before and after school.

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