Q: Why don’t the police enforce the 20 mph speed zone outside Mount Tahoma High School? — Dennis B., Steilacoom
A: The same reason we here at Traffic Q&A headquarters aren’t better photographers, novelists and ukulele players, Dennis: lack of time and resources.
Some also might say lack of talent in our case, but what do they know?
Anyway, let us let Dennis tell his tale before we wade into the answer.
“I frequently drive on South 74th Street past Mount Tahoma High School,” he writes. “There are signs that clearly display a 20 mph speed limit during daytime hours when students are likely present.
“I seem to be the only one obeying this limit. Most drivers are blowing through this school zone at 35 mph or more. Why don’t Tacoma police enforce this?”
Doubting Thomases that we are, we headed out to South 74th Street ourselves midmorning one school day last week for a little look-see.
Dennis, it turns out, was not exaggerating.
While we observed some drivers abiding by the posted school-zone speed limit, many others whizzed by at alarming rates of speed, clearly topping the 35 mph speed limit on either side of the school zone.
We observed speeders heading east and west on 74th Street. We observed them in passenger cars and work vans. We observed on guy in a silver Corvette who must have been fantasizing about charging down the front stretch at Monaco.
A bit appalled, we contacted Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool.
“Our traffic unit does its best to be present at elementary schools first, the middle, and, if available, the high schools. It would be nice if we had enough officers to be present at all schools to enforce the reduced speeds. The short answer is: We write tickets in school zones when we are available to do so.”
Cool went on to say it would be swell if drivers just obeyed the law.
“Speed limit signs are clearly displayed and generally complied with by most drivers,” she said. “It would be nice if concerned citizens on the road complied with the reduced speed signs. It would compel others to drive the posted speed limit as they can’t get around those that are.”
She also reminded drivers that school zones are not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
“Each school in the city has posted signs on the roadway,” Cool said. “Some are, ‘When Children Are Present,’ some are during the hours of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. I don’t know of any that say or mean 24 hours per day.
“Plain and simple, pay attention to the signs around a school and follow what the signs say.”
If you don’t, and get caught?
RCW 46.61.440, titled, “ Maximum speed limit when passing school or playground crosswalk,” prescribes a fine of twice the normal for speeding.
“This penalty may not be waived, reduced or suspended,” the law states.