More school zones post ambiguous speed signs

The city of Henderson is in the process of replacing all 500 of its school zone speed signs. By December, all signs will read that the school zone speed limit is in effect "when children are present."

Pretty ambiguous, right? That's the point.

It's expected to make drivers slow down and be more aware of their surroundings, Henderson spokes woman Kathleen Richards said.

"We have studies that show people are more conscious of children," Richards said. "We think it's going to increase pedestrian safety."

The replacement also saves the city money in the long run, she said, because it won't have to replace signs when school bell times are changed.

The when-children-are-present signs are becoming more popular all over the valley.

But these signs turn to gray what used to be black-and-white laws.

The Henderson , Metropolitan and Clark County School District police departments all had different answers for what "when children are present" actually means.

Explanations included a half-hour before school starts to a half-hour after school ends, according to Richards; an hour before or after school, according to school district police; and any time, day or night, including weekends, if children are in the vicinity, according to Henderson and Metropolitan police departments.

The Metropolitan Police Department said motorists can be ticketed during school hours when all children are inside the building and clearly in no danger of being hit by a car, and yet school district police said they would not ticket drivers even if kids were outside playing -- so long as they were contained in the schoolyard's chain-link fence just feet away from the street.

The point is, each agency, maybe each officer, will interpret and enforce the law differently.

The state's laws seem to contradict themselves, too.

Nevada law requires that "each sign marking the beginning or a (school zone) must include a designation of the hours when the speed limit is in effect or that the speed limit is in effect when children are present."

Another state law requires those signs to "clearly designate the hours during which the speed limit applies."

Clearly, they don't.

Any agency can issue a citation for a school zone infraction, said Lt. Ken Young of the school district police.

"Several departments work together around the schools," Young said. "It's not uncommon to see highway patrol assisting to make sure school is safe."

For the zones with older signs that have specific times listed or flashing yellow beacons, those still apply, according to Metropolitan Police Department traffic bureau officer William Villagrana.

No department could provide costs for such infractions since the courts decide that, they said.

Henderson police spokesman Todd Rasmussen said the school zone speed signs are being added with the best intentions.

"The primary focus is the safety of children," he said. "This was all put into place for them."


School buses also may pose confusion to some motorists.

If a bus stops to pick up or drop off kids and the red stop sign on the side of the bus is extended, vehicles in both directions must stop until the signs are retracted.

But traffic on the opposite side of a divided roadway with a median should not stop.

A first offense is a misdemeanor that can carry a fine of between $250 and $500. Subsequent offenses carry suspended license penalties of six months or more.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at or 224-5524.


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