Most roadways include signs telling drivers when there is a school nearby. Those signs sometimes include a flashing yellow light above and below an illuminated “20” and the words “Speed Limit.” Signs sometimes state that there is a speed limit of 20 “during restricted hours.”
Exactly when must a motorist only drive less than 20 mph in these areas? What is the speed limit near schools where the school sign does not have flashing lights?
School speed limit laws are some of the vaguest laws in Ohio.
Most signs simply indicate that there is a school nearby and that the speed limit is 20 mph “during restricted hours.” Restricted hours is defined in law as the time during “school recess and while children are going to or leaving school during the opening and closing hours.”
Regardless of the location of the sign, if a motorist is within 300 feet of a school building or school-owned property, the speed limit is 20 mph during restricted hours.
When exactly do children go to school and leave from school? If you do not have kids in school, you likely do not know. Even if you have kids in school, you likely do not know when each student has recess. Regardless, if you travel within 300 feet of a school at more than 20 mph during those times, you will be subject to receiving a ticket.
If there is a “school” sign with flashing lights that indicates that the speed limit is 20, the speed limit is 20 miles per hour when the lights are flashing, during school recess and while children are going to school in the morning and leaving in the afternoon.
Local governments are not required to erect signage indicating when a school speed zone ends. Therefore, a motorist should accelerate beyond 20 mph only once that the motorist is sure that the motorist is at least 300 feet beyond the school and any property owned by the school.
The questions become even more complex when driving by a certain small school in Ottawa. On the school’s adjacent street, there is a sign with flashing lights that says “School Speed Limit 20” immediately followed by a sign simply reading “Speed Limit 20 School”. Is the speed limit 20 when the lights are flashing, during restricted hours or all of those times? Of course, the 20 mph speed limit always applies during the restricted hours and also applies when the lights are flashing, which flashing may or may not coincide with the restricted hours.
Decreased speed is scientifically proven to decrease the severity and frequency of accidents. Protection of our youth has apparently caused our state legislature to keep school zone speed limit laws ambiguous, so that we motorists err on the side of caution. Drivers are encouraged to drive slow whenever lights are flashing and from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays from now until next June.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-523-5523. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.