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School Zone Speed Laws Clarified

POLK COUNTY -- After muddling the school zones speed regulations last year, the Oregon State Legislature has tried to simplify things.

POLK COUNTY -- After muddling the school zones speed regulations last year, the Oregon State Legislature has tried to simplify things.

An amendment to the four 2005 laws concerning speeds in school zones is now in effect, and the Oregon Department of Transportation has begun a public relations campaign to spread the word.

According to Susan Riehl, Youth Program Manager for the Oregon Department of Transformation's Safety Division, knowing when to slow to 20 mph near schools is as simple as ABC:

* Anytime a yellow light is flashing on a school speed sign.

* Between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on school days

* When passing crosswalks near school grounds or when children or a crossing guard are anywhere nearby.

Driving just 5 mph over the 20 mph speed limit increases the risk of hitting a child and increases the severity of the injury when a child is struck by a vehicle, Riehl says.

Last spring, ODOT spent $600,000 installing 43 flashing yellow lights in school zones on highways.

The installations did not include changes made in cities or counties. Those were left to local governments to make.

This latest amendment to the state's traffic laws resulted from public outrage when state legislature passed four separate house bills making school zone speeds effective around the clock.

The first attempt to waylay public irritation resulted in a hodgepodge of rules that confused drivers and that police could not fully enforce.

ODOT and state legislators are hoping that the current law will be the final one on the school zone issue for a long time to come. Riehl's office has started airing public service announcements about the "ABCs."

She added that drivers should remember that slowing to 20 mph briefly is a small inconvenience to bear to protect children.

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