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When Are 'Slow to 25 M.P.H.' Signs in Effect at Schools?


Dear Street Smart:

My question has to do with the signs that we see by schools. They say motorists must reduce their speed to 25 m.p.h. as they approach the school "when children are present."

What is meant by that sign? Does it mean when children are in the classroom or outside on the school grounds or what?

A few years ago, my neighbor was visiting a school in the late afternoon. She was the last person to leave the campus, but a sheriff's deputy gave her a ticket anyway for driving 35 m.p.h. near the school.

What are the rules for school zones?

Lew Drolet

Westlake Village

Dear Reader:

You're not the only driver who's perplexed by these signs.

George Morris, traffic sergeant for the Ventura Police Department, says he usually hears two questions regarding school zone speed limits.

First, which schools do they apply to? Morris says all students, from kindergarten to 12th grade, are protected. That means that you must slow down even outside a high school.

The second question is, how many children must be present to trigger the 25-m.p.h. speed limit? Morris says his officers will ticket a driver if at least one student is in sight.

The state Vehicle Code mentions the times when students are arriving at or leaving school or are outside during recess. But Morris says "the key is, during school hours at any time, you should not be driving over 25 m.p.h."

Because a driver can never be sure when a student will appear outside a campus, the California Highway Patrol enforces the 25 m.p.h. throughout the school day, says CHP Officer Staci Morse, who is based in Ventura.

"If it's reasonable that children will be present, the law will be enforced," she says. "They could be there, and you might not see them. They could dart out unexpectedly. The faster you're going, the longer it takes to stop."

Regarding the ticket your neighbor received when no children were around, a deputy may have stretched the letter of the law.

Deputy Mike Christensen, who does traffic enforcement in Thousand Oaks, has no first-hand knowledge of that incident. But generally, he says, deputies don't need to look for drivers who fall into a gray area.

"There are plenty of good violations without having to stretch the point," he says.

Dear Street Smart:

The Olsen Road off-ramp in Thousand Oaks, for northbound traffic leaving the Moorpark Freeway, is a known problem.

Because of the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp, traffic backs up onto the freeway.

I heard or read some time ago that the problem was going to be solved by removing the stop sign and redirecting traffic on the off-ramp and on Olsen.

My question is, when will this improvement be made?

C. W. Brown

Simi Valley

Dear Reader:

Your memory serves you well.

In early June, another Street Smart reader called attention to the backup problem on this ramp. It usually occurs during the afternoon rush-hour, when too many cars have to stop and wait to turn onto Olsen.

Back in June, Thousand Oaks staff members said they were working on a plan to eliminate the backup by removing the stop sign and creating a "free right-turn" lane onto Olsen.

The project was awaiting state Department of Transportation approval, and construction was expected to begin within six weeks.

Well, six weeks have come and gone. Caltrans has approved the design, but Thousand Oaks has put the project on hold. City leaders want to see whether opening of the Simi Valley-Moorpark freeways connector, tentatively slated for mid-October, will eliminate the backup.

Theoretically, the new freeway link will provide a better route to Simi Valley for many drivers who now use the Olsen exit.

Meanwhile, Caltrans still favors the redesigned Olsen interchange, says Ali Peykanu, the agency's Ventura area project engineer.

Peykanu says Caltrans plans to repave and paint new stripes on the Olsen off-ramp in the coming months. At that time, the agency will encourage Thousand Oaks to proceed with the stop sign removal and Olsen improvements, he says.

Dear Street Smart:

At the intersection of Royal and Blackstock avenues in Simi Valley, there is a blind curve for drivers going east on Royal.

Blackstock is a major outlet for the neighborhood north of Royal, and it is the fastest way for firefighters at the Los Angeles Avenue station to reach Royal.

Beginning at Sycamore Drive, motorists heading east on Royal tend to accelerate because there is no housing on the south side of the road.

As they approach the curve, drivers see two 30-m.p.h. signs.

Yet from 6 to 9 a.m. daily, cars screech around the curve at speeds up to 50 m.p.h. or more. At those speeds, cars trying to get onto Royal from Acadia Street have a difficult and dangerous time.

For the past six years, I have asked the city if some type of flashing caution signal could be placed before the blind curve.

There have been several accidents in the area because of excessive speed. Can anything be done?

Raynold L. Kinseth

Simi Valley

Dear Reader:

The city has taken a few steps to make this curve safer.

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