SAQ: How are school zone speed limits chosen, enforced?

Factors include neighborhoods and roadways

SAN ANTONIO – As more students head to in-person classes, school zones are a bit busier again. And that’s led to some questions about how speed limits in school zones are designated and how they’re enforced.

“Why [are there] different school zone speed limits,” Lisa asked. “Judson Road has four lanes of traffic. Wood Middle School has 30mph school zone, some are 20/25mph.”

School zones are usually set not by school districts, but by local municipalities like the City of San Antonio. Traffic engineers take several factors into account when working to determine the right speed limit, including the neighborhoods in which schools sit.

“It also depends on the type of road. Is it a residential road, is it a business road, is it a highway,” said Paul Berry, spokesperson for the Department of Public Works. “We’ll usually reduce to 20 miles per hour or 15 miles per hour below the default speed limit.”

That means school zones on some busier roads have higher speed limits than residential streets, but the bottom line is the same.

“The most important thing to remember about a school zone is it’s about safety and it’s for the safety of the children walking to and from school,” Berry said. “And that’s why we just want people to slow down…when you’re going slower, you’re usually a little more alert about what’s going on.”

That leads to questions about enforcement, like one submitted by Troy Henderson.

“What is going on with school zones? It’s like everybody just ignores them now and when I slow down for them, I almost get ran over,” he wrote.

While municipalities come up with the speed limits, it’s up to police to enforce them.

“The San Antonio Police Department will enforce school zones depending on the instructional choice of the given school district,” wrote the SAPD Public Information Office in a statement. “This school year brings us many challenges because of the unknown. We strongly encourage citizens to be mindful when driving into school zones because there are many schools that are currently in-person instruction.”

Berry echoes that sentiment, saying all school zones should be treated as active during the school year, even if most students in a neighborhood are learning remotely.

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