weather icon Windy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Are drivers required to slow down for flashing school lights on holidays?

The predominant attitude of readers this week centered around one question: Do I ask forgiveness or permission?

Evidently, the Clark County School District didn’t shut off the school zone lights on Monday, which was Presidents Day. Curious readers wondered if they should risk ignoring them or drive that painfully slow 15 mph, even though the playgrounds were deserted.

Coleen was the first of several to write in about it.

“As I drove down Desert Inn Road from my residence toward Interstate 15 today, I passed two schools with the flashing 15 mph speed limit lights flashing. As it is clearly a holiday and there is no school, I watched with amazement while people slowed down to 15 mph which almost caused a couple accidents. Why are the speed limit lights flashing on a non-school day?”

The lights likely were flashing because it was just a one-day holiday, according to the Clark County School District. Each city has control of its school zone lights. On longer holidays, such as spring break or summer break, they definitely get turned off. Occasionally, a long weekend gets overlooked.

Tony had a different take on the same topic, and he asked via Twitter.

“Hmmm….@LVMPD are school zone flashing lights enforced on a school holiday? They were blinking this morning! @RJroadwarrior”

I asked both Las Vegas and Henderson police about this. Everyone seemed to agree that school zones should not be enforced on a holiday.

If for some reason an officer wasn’t aware of that and gave you a ticket anyway, Las Vegas police spokesman Larry Hadfield said you probably would have a decent chance in traffic court of having the ticket dismissed.

But there are some types of school zones that still can be enforced.

“Henderson traffic officers will not give a motorist a citation in a school zone if the flashers are running on a day when school is not is session,” Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said. “However, they will give a ticket if children are present.”

Those signs are tricky. They don’t say “when children are present during school hours” or “when children are present Monday through Friday.” Just “when children are present,” in general.

Gotta love those technicalities.

So it doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday. If there is even one kid walking in that school zone, Hadfield and Richards both said, speeders are setting themselves up for a ticket.

Rod had a different question about trying to avoid tickets.

“Can an unmarked police car pull someone over and give them a ticket, and if so is it the same for the entire state of Nevada? Thank you, Viper!”

First off, I’m flattered by the cool nickname.

Anyway, the unfortunate answer to your question is yes, an unmarked patrol car can sneak up and ticket you for all the same things a regular one can.

“What makes them patrol vehicles are the red and blue lights,” Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Loy Hixson said. As long as they have that capability, along with a siren, they’re official.

Hixson noted that not all unmarked patrol cars will have the distinct extra set of side mirrors, and not all will have “EX” on the license plate to show that it’s a government vehicle.

So as much as you try to watch your rearview mirror for those telling signs, they might not be there. Unmarked patrol cars, whether Highway Patrol or police cars, come in all makes and models.

Hadfield offered the reassurance that even if the police car doesn’t look like one, the person driving it will have multiple forms of official identification to prove the officer is a real police officer.

Lastly, Keith had a question that was off the roads and in the books.

This was the gist of a very long email: Where on Earth does the Department of Motor Vehicles pull those crazy obscure driver’s permit questions from?

“In short, it was more of a pre-law exam for ambulance chasers than a test about driving and the rules of the road,” Keith complained.

Ah, the notorious 50-question written test you must pass during the process of attaining a driver’s license. There’s a number in the top corner, counting down how many more questions you’re allowed to miss before you fail.

Some of the questions seem normal, such as ones about how to drive on the roads safely.

But there are some weird ones thrown in about how to drive through fog (in Nevada?), how many feet you’re allowed to drive straight in a turn lane (200, 300 or 400?), fine-print insurance laws, etc.

I feel your pain, Keith. I failed that test three times. According to DMV spokesman Kevin Malone, many people do. Malone said the questions are pulled from a pool of 150, and there has to be at least one topic from each chapter in the Nevada Driver’s Handbook.

So there you go. The questions are fair since they’re all in the book. Just make sure you read very, very closely.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, send an email to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter @RJroadwarrior.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.