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School zone speed enforcement starts Sept. 2 in Federal Way

Panther Lake Elementary crossing guard Bev Duncan waves a flag and gives hand motions May 14, 2009, to motorists who are speeding through the school zone. In a school zone, the speed limit in Washington state is 20 mph. Anyone going over that can receive a ticket ranging from $189 to $250, depending on the driver
Panther Lake Elementary crossing guard Bev Duncan waves a flag and gives hand motions May 14, 2009, to motorists who are speeding through the school zone. In a school zone, the speed limit in Washington state is 20 mph. Anyone going over that can receive a ticket ranging from $189 to $250, depending on the driver's speed.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

Students aren't the only ones who need to get back into the school mindset. Drivers do too.

The Federal Way Police Department will start its annual targeted school zone speed enforcement on Sept. 2.

"It's kind of a push to get drivers' behavior back to thinking about school zones," police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said. "It's a good time to remind people."

About 8,700 of the district's roughly 23,000 students are eligible to ride the bus to school; many of the remaining students walk to school every day. In the past five to seven years, there have been four incidents in crosswalks where a student was injured, according to school district security.

All of the district's elementary schools have their own crossing guards, as do about half of the middle schools, to help with pedestrian safety.

In a school zone, the speed limit in Washington state is 20 mph. Anyone going over that can receive a ticket ranging from $189 to $250, depending on the driver's speed.

Last year during the school zone emphasis, there were 129 tickets issued in September, Schrock said. School zones are patrolled all year. Many times, there is a police officer on a motorcycle traveling back and forth in front of the school. Some officers use a radar gun out front.

From September to December 2009, Federal Way police issued 406 school zone tickets. Last year was also the first year of the school zone cameras, which will also ticket speeders once the school year starts.

Twin Lakes Elementary has a photo enforcement device on SW 320th Street, and Saghalie Middle School has one on 21st Avenue SW. When the devices rolled out in January 2010, they each averaged 364 speeding violations during the monthlong warning period.

During the first six months of 2010, the devices averaged 262 violations per month at each school, down 28 percent.

A pedestrian who is struck by a vehicle going 20 mph or less has an 80 percent chance of survival, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. However, if a car is going 27 mph or faster, there's an 80 percent chance of fatality if a child is struck by the vehicle.

School zones are marked with a yellow and white sign that tells the driver when the school zone times take effect, usually either "When children are present" or "When lights flash."

According to state law, school zones are 600 feet long, 300 feet on either side of the sign.

Driving in school zones

• Slow down. There is no ticket for going even slower than the required 20 mph. Some conditions may call for even slower speeds: Heavy rain, blowing snow, icy roads, fog or darkness.

• Don't make u-turns or turn around in a driveway in a school zone. It's hard to see children when making u-turns or backing up.

• Stop before the crosswalk and stay stopped until the entire crosswalk is clear.

• Do not pass a car that is stopped for a crosswalk, even if the driver is signaling for a turn.

• When turning, don't pull up into the crosswalk to wait.

• Remember that children hear and see differently than adults. Children only have two-thirds the peripheral vision of adults, and they have more difficulty determining the source of a sound. Children are still learning to judge distances and speed. They may also overestimate their ability to cross to a street before an oncoming car.

• Never park your car within 20 feet of a crosswalk. Pedestrians need 20 feet of visibility to cross safely.

• Always have children exit on the side of the car away from traffic.

Source: Washington State Traffic Safety Commission

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