MAILBAG: Question on school zone speed signs

Jeanne of Grand Haven Township asked, "If the reduced speed limit in a school zone is to keep our children safe, and I take responsibility my own actions, then why can't we have a 'school zone' flashing light go on during the times the speed limit is reduced?"
Mark Brooky
Nov 5, 2012


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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I dont have kids either, but as Ive seen the kids leaving the building at 3:50 or 3:45 sometimes, I know they're still in class at 3:30.

I think what it all comes down to, is someone is too lazy to go out & maintain the lights. kind of like in the subdivision I live in, we have to pay extra to have lights out here but when they burn out, it takes forever to get a new lightbulb in them


Even if I might have driven by once when it was happening, I honestly would not remember what time school "A" was dismissed vs. what time school "B" down the road might be dismissed. I am saying that you shouldn't get angry at other drivers when there is nothing specific to tell them if school is letting out. Slowing down is still the best bet if a driver is unsure.

oh come on

Great question. I wonder how much loss revenue the city would accumulate if they installed flashing school zone signs? I find this statement funny also "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." I wonder who and how many people filled out this survey?


I think we NEED to have the flashing lights. I am so sick of getting stuck behind people who think its 30 when its 3:30 or 3 & 5 (case in point, today) & they took away the speed at lunch time, but yet people still slow down. Is it that hard for drivers to turn their head AND look at the sign for what times they say?! like today, there were 3 or 4 cars in front of me at 3pm & there was 5 kids swinging on the playground with an adult out there & the cars slow way down & nobody would go around them. are you kidding me?! were those kids going to magically fly backwards off the swings & fly into the middle of the road? I highly doubt it!!! at 3 & 3:30, class is still going!! You dont need to slow down!!!!


Twenty years ago I also tried to have flashing school zone signs installed. I wrote letters to everyone I could think of from the Superintendent to the Road Commission. I also received the run around, no one wanted to take responsibility. I was given the same excuses that were stated in the article. Which didn't make sense then and still don't make sense now. I was even told that the best reminder for motorist to slow down were children walking down the side of the road (back before the bike path was there)! I feel that most motorists would slow down when seeing the flashing lights and not installing them is negligent. Even though my kids are long gone from Peach Plains I still would like to see the flashing lights installed.


I agree. Flashing lights would be more effective, and I'm talking about the Rosy Mound school zone.


I would love to see flashing lights near all schools. Looking at the sign for the times doesn't help because my older car does not have a clock in it. Fiddling with a cell phone to see the correct time is not only dangerous, but could also get me in trouble if the police are watching. In reply to angelshorty18 who wrote, "at 3 & 3:30, class is still going!!", I don't have children, so I only have a general idea about what time school begins and ends. I would have thought 3:00 or 3:30 is exactly when they would be dismissed for the day. In the end, if I think it is at all close to the time the school days begins or ends, I slow down; better to be safe than sorry. A flashing light sure would make it easier. However, they need to be maintained. I passed Robinson School a few nights ago and the lights were flashing at 7:15 p.m. and there wasn't a car in the parking lot.


Several schools in the Holland and Hudsonville area have flashing lights on the school speed zone areas

Back to the Wall

I just drive slow all the time. It's better for the car, my heart, and insurance rates.


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