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VERIFY: No, Spokane police aren't enforcing school zone speed limits if the school is empty

But, officers urge drivers to be cautious near schools because their playgrounds, courts and fields attract kids, even when class is not in session.

SPOKANE, Wash — As school resumes for students all across the Inland Northwest several people have asked whether police are enforcing school zone speed limits when kids aren’t physically in the building, but instead are learning remotely.

KREM's Verify team recently received the following voicemail where the caller stated, “I live near Shadle Park High School and I was driving by the school zones sign with the school zones saying when schools are in session…it says 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. you have to go 20 miles per hour when the speed limit is normally 30 (miles per hour). Well, with virtual schools happening, my question is: are the school zone times still valid?”

Sources

To verify, we reached out to Spokane Police Sergeant Terry Prueninger, Corporal Mark Gregory with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, and we also looked at the Spokane County code.

Are school zone speed limits still enforced during distance learning?

“So, if there are no students in the building then that is not going to apply,” Sgt. Prueninger said of the school zone speed limits.

But Prueninger also offered a word of caution.

“From a legal standpoint, there are going to be some schools that are within the city limits that are either a private school or part of another school district that may have kids in them, so they [school zone speed limits] could still apply,” he said. “So, you need to know where the schools that you travel by; is it occupied or not.”

Corporal Mark Gregory with the Sheriff’s Office offered a similar response. In an email to KREM he wrote, “…it depends. If it [the school] has children at it (some schools do allow for the littles one to attend or daycare type classes, etc.) then yes. If the zones have blinking lights, yes. If no one is there, then no.”

Spokane County addresses the issue on its website in a post titled, “When I drive through a 20 mile per hour school zone, what does ‘When Children are Present’ mean?” Their post reads as follows:

On school days the 20 miles per hour school speed limit is enforced under the following conditions:

  • School children are occupying or walking within the marked crosswalk.
  • School children are waiting at the curb or on the shoulder of the roadway and are about to cross the roadway by way of the marked crosswalk.
  • School children are present or walking along the roadway, either on the adjacent sidewalk or, in the absence of sidewalks, on the shoulder within the posted school speed limit zone extending 300 feet, or other distance established by regulation, in either direction from the marked crosswalk.(ref. WAC 468-95-350 and Spokane County Code Section 46.61.4160)

Verdict

We can Verify that no, police won’t be enforcing school zone speed limits at schools where children are not present. However, officers urge drivers to be cautious near schools because their playgrounds, fields and courts attract students even when class is not in session.

Do you have something you’d like the KREM 2 Verify team to look into? Send an email to Verify@KREM.com or leave Mark Hanrahan a voicemail at 509-838-7334