New wrinkle in school zone speed control coming

The in basket: I get frequent complains about the inconsistency in the form of school zone speed control, with some specifying certain hours of enforceability, others “when children are present,” others accompanied by flashing lights that indicate enforceability and some, like those at Bremerton High School, active 24-7.

Now I see a new wrinkle that strikes me as almost zany and likely to be counter-productive.

I was driving past Burley-Glenwood Elementary School and saw one sign saying school zone 20 mph, then another a hundred feet or so beyond saying the same, but “when lights are flashing” was added. I saw the same thing in both directions.

On a second look, I saw that the first signs in each pair had an upward arrow above them. That’s what we see on signs warning of a speed limit reduction coming up. So they warned of the upcoming school zone, as if the flashing lights on the other clearly visible signs wasn’t warning enough.

I made a mental not to ask what on earth had happened there to warrant such overkill. Then I saw the same pairs of signs on Mullenix Road at Mullenix Ridge Elementary.

Well, I thought, sounds like some new demand had come down from above.

What strikes me as zany is that if the lights aren’t flashing at either school, the 20 mile per hour limit isn’t in effect, despite the warning sign. And if it is in effect, the flashing lights call  plenty of attention to the fact.

The out basket: Blame the federally directed Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says, “This is a new requirement of the MUTCD.  If the posted speed limit on a road is 10 mph higher than the school zone speed, 20 mph, the Manual states a Reduced School Speed Limit Ahead warning sign should be installed to alert motorists of the upcoming speed zone.  This is the new warning sign that precedes the zone.  It doesn’t trigger the 20 mph zone, it warns motorists that the zone is ahead.”

Doug Bear of county public works adds, “We are looking at each application and we will install the signs as warranted. The Mullenix signs went in in March, the Lakeway signs were installed in October.”

Seems to me the warning signs installed before one can see the actual school zone sign, especially those with flashing lights, would make a lot more sense.

Jeff replied, “Several warning sign types are used to do just as you suggest; alert the motorist of an unseeable condition ahead.  School Bus Stop Ahead, Stop Sign Ahead, and Signal Ahead are this type of warning signs.  We only install them if the condition is obscured by a curve or other object that blocks visibility.  Another type is simply a pre-warning sign of an upcoming road condition. The advanced speed limit change and the advanced school zone speed signs are this type.  With the larger speed differential it allows motorists a little more time to adjust his or her speed prior to the speed change or zone.”


3 thoughts on “New wrinkle in school zone speed control coming

  1. There is no “school zone” in front of the BHS. The speed limit is just 20 mph with marked crosswalks. I’m sure that just adds to the confusion….

  2. It is starting to seem that school zones are also becoming speed traps. Why? Because I can’t remember the last time (Over five years) that I so much as saw a child near one, at any hour.
    Maybe they can’t walk home like my baby boomer generation did because of liability. And when they do get home it’s POW, right on the cell phone. Maybe.

  3. One area that is posted at 20 MPH is on Marine Drive northbound by the old Kitsap Bank building & the Methodist church and again at the intersection of Rocky Point & Marine Drive there is one of the flashing light signs indicating 20 MPH when flashing. It was still that way on Tuesday the 4th of November. It is not marked that way approaching from the North toward, just the flashing light sign. I’m confused, is the speed limit 20 at the bank then goes to 25 when the light is not flashing?

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