School speed limits return after prolonged absence
As I write this article, it looks like students will be physically returning to our schools sometime during September, with some schools beginning as early as the 8th while others not until the 21st.
(Editor’s note: Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid public schools begin classes on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Keene begins Sept. 9, Long Lake Sept. 10. The AuSable Valley school district will have remote-only classes from Sept. 8 through at least Oct. 5.)
When schools were closed because of COVID-19 and education was continued virtually with students confined to their homes, school zone speed limits have not been in effect since mid-March, as students were not able to attend school in person. This means that six months have passed since motorists have had to obey school speed zone limits, generally 15 mph. Meanwhile, drivers have gotten into the habit of driving close to the 30 mph village speed limits in the vicinity of our schools.
Furthermore, because some school districts in Franklin County will be resuming in-school education before others, drivers will need to know when schools will be hosting students again. This is because most of our school speed zones are in effect between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. unless other times are posted on the advisory plaque beneath the posted school speed limit sign on SCHOOL DAYS.
Some of our school speed zones are controlled by flashing beacons that mandate the school speed limit “WHEN FLASHING” rather than specific times. Whenever the beacons are flashing, the school speed limit is in effect, even in evenings for school events.
Another issue to be aware of as school resumes this fall is that in most schools, start times may be staggered to allow for fewer students on school buses and in classrooms. Thus students may be going to school at different times and the same for going home after school. Drivers are likely to see students earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon than previously.
Lastly, school buses will be on the road again after a six-month absence. Drivers need to be aware of stopped school buses and obey the NO PASSING A STOPPED SCHOOL BUS WHEN LIGHTS ARE FLASHING law. As schools and school buses return after a prolonged absence, there will undoubtedly be some confusion initially. So please, to all motorists, be extra careful in the vicinity of schools and be aware of the potential for stopped school buses. No one wants to injure a child.