Monthly Archives: November 2015

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.”


Can ignoring ‘Your speed is’ sign lead to a ticket?

The in basket: Sharell Lee wonders if the “Your speed is…” signs are ever used for traffic speed enforcement.

“Am I correct that the flashing electric speed signs do nothing to control or punish speeders – that all they do is post the speed and flash when it’s exceeded?” she asked. “If so, why bother with installing them?  Those that are speeding already know they are, and a flashing sign isn’t going to change that once they realize there is no negative consequence in continuing to do so.”

The out basket: Well, the signs slow ME down, even though I know they are just advisory, and I must assume I’m not the only one. Surely those who don’t know it (not unrealistic in an age of red light enforcement cameras) probably are even more likely to take their foot off the gas.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says, “Some are able to collect data regarding speeds, but that data is a compilation and not tied to any individual vehicle. They are not used to enforce speed limits.”