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Section 4: School Speed Zones

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Reduced speed limits should be used for school zones during the hours when children are going to and from school. Usually such school speed zones are only considered for schools located adjacent to highways or visible from highways.

Pedestrian crossing activity should be the primary basis for reduced school speed zones. However, irregular traffic and pedestrian movements must also be considered when children are being dropped off and picked up from school.

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The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) should make certain that all applicable traffic control devices are utilized to prevent problems in school areas. Maintaining contact with school officials can help TxDOT become aware of proposed building programs or other problems at an early stage so that solutions will be more promptly implemented. When proposed building plans are known, it may be possible to offer suggestions on access points that will prevent future problems. Also the installation of needed safety and traffic control devices can be scheduled to be in place when needed.

An engineering and traffic investigation should be conducted to determine the need for a reduced school speed limit as well as all appropriate traffic control devices to provide maximum safety.

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Prompt Installation Important

Districts should initiate the installation of school speed limit signs and flashers immediately after submitting the request to the Traffic Operations Division (TRF) for Transportation Commission action. Every effort should be made to have these signs in operation as soon as practical after the minute order is approved by the Transportation Commission. If, for some reason, there is a delay in the installation of a school flasher, other static signs for school zones should be installed as soon as possible after the minute order is enacted.

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Where TxDOT is responsible for signing school speed zones, the zones shall be signed with a combination of the S4-3 SCHOOL and the R2-1 SPEED LIMIT sign assembly. Flashing beacons shall also be used with the S4-4 WHEN FLASHING sign to identify the periods the school speed limit is in force. One sign, S5-1, could be used, which is a combination of these. The S5-1 SCHOOL SPEED LIMIT XX WHEN FLASHING may be used in place of the S4-3, R2-1, and S4-4. A Transportation Commission minute order, city ordinance, or county ordinance authorizing the reduced speed limit is required prior to use of these signs in school zones.

Cities should be allowed to sign school speed zones in accordance with the other options set out in the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices ( TMUTCD).

The S4-3, R2-1 and S4-4 sign assembly with flashers shall be mounted on a permanent type mounting and placed at each zone limit of the section of highway, road, or street through which the speed limit has been reduced. The sign assembly with flashing beacons may be placed off the shoulder of the road, in the median, or overhead to face traffic entering the school speed zone. An illustration of signing for school speed zones is shown in the TMUTCD. Other types of signs used by cities should be similarly located in conformance with the TMUTCD.

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Intervals of Operation

Generally, the zones indicated on the signs should be in effect only during the following specified intervals:

  • from approximately 45 minutes before school opens until classes begin
  • from the beginning to the end of the lunch period
  • for a 30 minute period beginning at the close of school.

The intervals of operation of the flashing beacons on the school zone speed limit assembly may be extended or revised for school events as mutually agreed upon by the school district and the entity responsible for the operation of the flashing beacons. In this case, the flashing beacons should only be operated when there is an increase in vehicular activity and pedestrian traffic in and around the roadway associated with the school event.

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More Information

See the TMUTCD, Part 7, for more details on school areas. For more details on the school speed zone, see Chapter 3, Section 3, “Developing Strip Maps,” under the heading: Schools.

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