Long summer days are still the norm, and while many Anchorage residents are still thinking of that next weekend camping trip, the reality is the school year is almost here. The first day of school for Anchorage students is quickly approaching. Thousands of children – from the excited kindergartener to the tenured high school senior – will be out in force that day. Many students will walk a short distance through neighborhoods to a bus stop; others will walk the entire way to school, and many teenagers will be on the roads driving. More traffic – both pedestrian and vehicular – will be on the roadway system beginning early that morning and each weekday morning thereafter for the next nine months.
While the first day of school is generally an exciting day for students, it is an important day for motorists as well. Traffic patterns across the city will be changed to reflect school zones. There are numerous areas that will have reduced speed limits, signified by flashing yellow lights and signs. Motorists, as well as children, will need to pay close attention to their surroundings and be acutely aware of each others presence.
The posted speed limit in school zones is 20 miles per hour when the lights are flashing. Generally, the school zone lights will activate 30 – 40 minutes prior to school starting, during lunch hours, and at the end of the school day, continuing 30 – 40 minutes after school ends. These time zones ensure students are safe during their trips to and from school. During this time, students are walking, riding bikes or arriving in vehicles and buses, which require a reduced speed necessary for their safety.
Parents are encouraged to educate their children on the safety rules of walking and traffic:
- Children should always use marked crosswalks or with a crossing guard – never in the middle of the block.
- Walking in groups is always recommended over walking alone.
- Never enter the roadway until it is safe to do so. Drivers may not see you – don’t assume they do – make eye contact and wait for the vehicle to stop!
- Bright, reflective clothing should be worn during dark winter months. If your child rides a bus, remind them to stay out of the roadway and wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before moving toward it to board.
- Do not ‘horseplay’ around buses or near streets.
- Walk your bike in crosswalks and wear a helmet (it’s the law).
- Never allow children to wear earphones or headgear that block hearing or peripheral vision when they walk or ride bikes near a roadway.
Motorists are encouraged to slow down in areas where schools are present – even in areas where there are no flashing speed zones. Be extra vigilant around school buses that are allowing children to board or disembark. Patience and reduced speed can add up to one less collision involving a child. Ensure you plan your drive with enough time that you do not have to rush or fail to see the obvious – a child – and end the day in tragedy.
Officers will be in school zones across the Municipality on Wednesday and in the days to follow. These officers will enforce all observed traffic violations. There is zero tolerance for traffic violations in school zones, particularly speeding, red light violations and seat belt violations. Speed violations in school zones are stiff – each citation, regardless of the speed – is 6 points against a drivers license. Fines range from $12 to $16 per mile an hour over the posted speed limit. Red light violations carry 4 points and a $200 fine, while seat belt fines range from $15 to $200, dependent upon which occupant is out of compliance. If the unbelted occupant is under 16 years of age, the driver will be assessed 2 points in addition to the fine.
Every motorist can avoid the sting of a citation by obeying the posted school zone speed limit and other rules of the road.
By exercising patience and courtesy, everyone can avoid a tragedy and be part of a safe and healthy school year.