Mesa Public School students return to classes on Tuesday, August 6. As that date gets closer, it is a great time to think about what we can do as drivers to make sure Mesa's school zones are safe for our students.
A good understanding of the traffic laws associated with school and crossing zones is essential for safe travel around schools. Since school ended in May, Mesa's Transportation Department has made several changes to school zones including:Westwood High School: Crossing students safely over five lanes of traffic on Rio Salado Pathway, despite it being a 15 miles-per-hour school zone, was difficult with simply a stop paddle. Over the summer a pedestrian hybrid beacon was installed to provide greater crossing safety with a signal for students getting to school.Highland Junior High: Over the summer, a full traffic signal was installed to provide greater crossing safety and eliminate the 15 miles-per-hour school zone on the seven-lane arterial roadway. The project also included sidewalk improvements that will help to facilitate the large groups of walking students and provide an accessible path all the way to/from campus.Hermosa Vista Elementary School: The large number of students that ride their bikes to school was causing an overflow of safe standing area for students waiting to cross 24th Street to campus. Over the summer, sidewalk extensions were installed at the school's 15 miles-per-hour crosswalk to create a more safe standing space, create a more well-defined crosswalk, and help to facilitate safe street crossings with a high number of elementary students.Carson Junior High: Over the summer, bike lanes were installed, and sidewalks were improved along Westwood to provide safer facilities for those walking and biking to school. The improvements will also help to better define travel lanes and where parking restrictions are in place to maintain safety for all areas adjacent to Carson Junior High and Emerson Elementary.
Below are four topics to keep in mind when driving in a school zone:
The 15-mph speed zone is there to protect children who need to cross the street. This speed control is used when there is no stop sign or traffic signal to assist children in the crossing. Be sure to adhere to the 15-mph speed limit at the instance of the first in-street traffic sign and maintain the slower speed until you fully clear the marked crosswalk. When you are near a school always be conscious of your speed so that you can react quickly to any situation.
Drivers are not allowed to enter a school crosswalk if there is a pedestrian in any part of the crosswalk. Be aware of your surroundings as you approach the school crosswalk and be ready to stop. Drivers can resume the street's posted speed limit once their vehicle has fully cleared the crosswalk markings.
You are not allowed to pass another vehicle in the school zone, even if you are going 15-mph. If another vehicle is traveling at a slower speed, you must slow down so you do not pass that vehicle in the school zone. This is important for keeping peripheral visibility in case of a crossing pedestrian.
All drivers need to comply with the NO PARKING, NO STANDING, NO STOPPING signage as it is there to ensure that the student crossing areas are kept clear and visible. It is vital to comply, even if it's just for a few seconds. Drivers are also not allowed to park within 30 feet of a stop sign, or 20 feet of an intersection, to maintain visibility of pedestrians.
As drivers, you must understand the traffic laws for these locations and follow them at all times. Remember to be patient as you approach and drive through Mesa school zones so that all students can get to and from school safely.