You want your students to be safe, and you also want motorists in the area to understand where that safety is a concern. After recently being accused of speeding in a school zone in Shawnee, KS, on a non-school day (based on city code, this is not speeding), I have decided to write a common sense article about school zones. I have read a lot of city code about school zones since the ticket, and I come from a city planning background, so I like to see code that makes sense to citizens.

Times

Many communities in our area post certain times for school zones, as in 7:30 to 9:00 and 2:30 to 5:00. Or just 7:00 until 5:00. Times can be confusing. If it's a city code, then it must take each and every school's start and end times, which means the times listed start early and end late. If a break is added in the middle of the day, then school zones suddenly do not apply on a half-day? For that, you'd have to use something in addition, as in, "And when children are present." Some motorists might get confused on a Saturday when there's a soccer game at a park adjacent to the school, since there are children present.

When Children Are Present

This was a favorite in my home state of Wisconsin. It probably made a lot of sense when most schools had K4 and K5 as half-days. Also, since there was mass busing in Milwaukee, start times were staggered quite a bit. My high school day started at 7:15, middle school at 8:00, and elementary school at 9:00. Many of the private schools in Milwaukee proper were vaguely neighborhood schools, too, so they really did need school zones just as much as the public schools.

This way of determining a school zone is more complicated in a suburban area like Johnson County, Kansas. The private school I happened to drive past to get a speeding ticket, as well as the school which my children attend, have pretty much zero students who walk and loading zones in a parking lot. Motorists never see kids at private schools like this in an area so spread out, so if a school zone is requested, it's really to protect parents driving to and from the schools. If children presence was required for the speed zones near these private schools, then no one would ever slow down. 

Flashing Lights

A method used for some schools in the area is to have flashing lights. This qualifier means that it's normal speed unless the lights are flashing. As was evidenced in my speeding ticket, these lights apparently flash on a schedule independent of the school calendar, which means that short days or days off make the lights liars. Of course, flashing lights do generate the most attention to the school zone, but if there are 20 days out of 190 that the lights are either flashing when school is not in session or not flashing when school is leaving in the middle of the day, then it's really a problem to use this system. At the school I went past, I counted 14 days that meet this criteria, not including larger breaks, like holiday weeks. If those lights keep flashing for two weeks at Christmas and a week at spring break, we're talking about closer to 30 days a school year of misrepresentation.

The particular school zone I drove past also did not have a warning sign signifying I was approaching a school zone. As far as I can tell, this is certainly suggested, if not the law.

When School is in Session

This is the letter of the law in the city in which I was ticketed, which means I was ticketed wrongly. However, it's difficult for police officers to always know the schedules for all schools, so I think we can all accept an honest mistake every once in a while. Motorists also do not know when any random school is in session, so it's impossible to put the onus on them, which is why you don't see school zone signs with this description. The traffic cops are really responsible for knowing this one more than individual citizens.

The Answer

The best solution would be flashing lights, only active when school is in session. Pair this with police officers who pay attention to the school calendar. Another suggestion that might work in the case of some suburban private schools would be to divert traffic from major streets to arterials. While this might cost some money in initial infrastructure, it will also result in smoother traffic flow throughout the day. We could also use new technology in order to identify tiny pedestrians at appropriate times, like radar or lidar used in self-driving cars mounted on school zone signs. The goal is safety, not extra income for local government or harassment of citizens.

Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Only In Florida: Millionaire Stealing From Kmart
    Where else would a guy who owns an $8 million private island and a Real World House decide to steal from Kmart? Nowhere else. Only in Florida. I thought that it was uniquely Florida when three guys walked right into a Walmart and stole the arcade claw machine, loading it into their pickup truck as if they were going to service it. But those guys were probably unemployed or at least poor, so it was just a badly-hatched plan. So was the plan to buy items at Kmart and then return different items in the boxes. But the Kmart plan was devised by a guy with enough capital to purchase an $8 million island, so it's even more odd.




    With how easily the man was caught, I have to assume he was not a career store scammer. There's no way that someone who tries to steal $300 from Kmart (minus the value of the items that were returned in the boxes) has pulled it off enough to become a millionaire.

    Maybe he figured he'd be safe once on his own island. He could use his new Keurig every morning as he watched the sunrise over the ocean. I assume his new island didn't have a basketball court, since that's the item he stuffed into the coffee maker box when it was returned.

    Normally, people who become millionaires don't steal small stuff, unless it's lots of small stuff, like fraudulent billing of patients of your healthcare company. I wonder if this man can plead the 5th and get out of any responsibility for stealing from Kmart. Perhaps that's all it takes to get away with stealing when you're rich; I wouldn't know.

    Anyhow, no man is an island entire of himself. He needs stuff, even if he is technically living on a private island. I suppose the monthly mortgage on an $8 million island might get a little steep. At 20% down on a 30-year loan, the island would run $30,260 a month. That's probably about what an average Kmart sells in a month. I'm kidding, I think. This guy was probably just strapped for cash after having spent over $1.5 million on a down payment, so he needed some necessities, like a Keurig coffee machine.
  • Followed Home in Jacksonville
    A neighbor was recently followed home by a white SUV, and the comments on Nextdoor were all over the place. I think there are several angles to consider here, even though most of the people commenting were fairly single-minded in how they saw the situation.




    Call the Police
    Most reactions were that of calling the police. This was 1:30 in the morning, and a man was being followed all the way to his home, and when the man turned away, he was also followed right up to the point he entered a 24-hour gas station. One comment was to call the police while being followed. That's good advice, so long as you weren't drinking at your friend's house until 1:30, which I have to assume was the case. When the police show up to help you out, the white SUV will be long gone, and you'll be asked to exit the vehicle for a little test.

    Back in Milwaukee, my car got broken into while I was at a friend's house. We yelled at the kids as they tried to hotwire the car, and then called the police as they ran away. We'd been drinking a little bit, so it was surprising that the cops got the car fully hotwired for me and sent me on my way, broken back window and all. That was 20 years ago and in Milwaukee (Beer Capital of America). I don't expect any breaks like this in Jacksonville, so my advice would be to do exactly what this guy did if you've had a couple of drinks.

    Ask The Police
    Another theory is that the car was an undercover police car "running tags." These folks suggested the man call the police and ask. The problem is that since following someone around and running the tags is probably illegal, even if that was happening, I doubt it would be confirmed. Therefore, asking the police would not get a definitive answer.

    I've personally seen this happen, back in suburban Milwaukee. Cruisers would be at a stop light behind a car and on a laptop. Even though it was considered to be against the rules, it probably happened all the time when those computers were first installed. I think this behavior has been cracked down on to some extent, but an officer might still follow a car with a broken tail light just to see if the driver seems to be swaying around in his lanes, especially at 1:30am.

    Be Relieved
    One neighbor, to the consternation of most other neighbors, said that there was no proof the occupants of the car were up to no good. It's certainly true that no obvious crime occurred, even if most of us would consider following someone at 1:30am to be unacceptable, criminal-like behavior. If nothing else, the intent was to frighten the man. Whether it was a criminal, a cop, or a concerned citizen, when you follow someone all the way home at that hour, you want to frighten the person (or sneak up behind him). Georgia has a stalking law that might be applicable here, but I did not see one for Florida, where stalking is more about "a person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks" someone else. That means that criminals can legally stalk a dozen potential victims each day and never be breaking any law.

    Man or Woman, Do This
    If this kind of thing happens to you, it might seem to make sense to get home. The problem here is that you are leading someone to your house, even if they bail. They might now assume you work a late shift. Maybe they were following you to seek revenge for cutting them off, and they'll tag your garage door later on. And maybe, they'll be faster to the weapon than you.

    Therefore, it's recommended that you lead them back out of your neighborhood, just like the man in the story did. Take them to a public place and call the cops. If you're a little intoxicated, maybe wake up a dozen friends and round up the posse. I'd try to get to a public place where I know there are obvious cameras mounted. Even when you get somewhere more public, it's probably not a good idea to reach for your gun or tire iron right away. At least fake dial and talk on your phone before you get out of the car. You could probably hit the old panic button on the car, too, since noise tends to ward off criminals. At least I'd do some of that stuff before I decide to escalate the situation.