MAILBAG: Question on school zone speed signs

Mark Brooky • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:48 AM

When one travels the same road, several times a day, and always at different times, it becomes difficult to remember what time it is to lower the normal speed for that stretch of road. A flashing yellow light would be a great way to keep the roads safer for our children. Expense cannot be a reason for not having lights. I am positive the drivers would take personal responsibility and slow down with the reminder of the flashing light, thus allowing our public safety officers time for other budgeted work where tax dollars are limited to support. No, I have not been ticketed!"


I'm glad you haven't been speeding, Jeanne.

And I feel your frustration, as I often pass Peach Plains Elementary School on Comstock Street and have to figure out the "school zone slow-down" times because I never can remember those exact times. Is it 3:45 to 4:20 or 3:30 to 4:15?

I first asked the superintendents of the Grand Haven and Spring Lake school districts. They both said they're not the authority here and referred me to the Ottawa County Road Commission.

Fred Keena, the traffic engineer for the Road Commission, kindly explained the reasons behind the school speed limit signage. He said the Road Commission has a continuing traffic safety improvement program and appreciates the interest in this issue.

"State statute provided that a school superintendent/administrator can initiate a school speed limit without a traffic engineering survey, provided specific criteria are met," Keena explained. "Unfortunately, traffic surveys conducted by local, state and national transportation authorities indicate that motorist compliance with arbitrarily established speed limits — including school speed limits — is marginal at best, thus requiring a need for continual enforcement to be effective.

"The false sense of security and trust associated with ineffective school speed limit signing may actually increase the potential for negative interaction between schoolchildren and motorists," he said.

We don't want that to happen!

Keena also said speed surveys have indicated the addition of a flashing light on a school speed limit sign does not significantly influence motorist speeds. Because sign-mounted flashing lights have questionable benefit, he said the Ottawa County Road Commission permits their use but does not participate in the installation or maintenance costs.

School districts — with the Road Commission's approval — would be responsible for installation and maintenance of school-related flashing beacons on roadways. Of course, that would still be under the jurisdiction of the Road Commission, Keena added.

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