New rules of the road for school zones

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There are new rules of the road when it comes to speed limits around schools in Marion County.

The city has begun installing dozens of signs with signals that flash when the 25 m.p.h. speed limit is in effect. They replace the ones where the speed limit was 25 from 7 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. "on school days."

Public Works Director Lori Miser said the flashing lights "really make it noticeable you're entering a school zone. The nice thing about them is they only flash when school is session. So, if you're driving in the summer and don't know if it's in session and it's flashing, you need to slow down."

Southport High and Middle schools got the lights a few weeks ago.

Tuesday afternoon, Sharon Lawson stopped to ask an officer about them. She said she was confused because the old signs were still up and couldn't tell if she needed to slow down just when the lights were flashing or all day. She was told if the lights are not flashing, "It’s the regular speed limit."

But as Southport High let out, the lights weren't flashing.

Beth Turner, waiting to pick up her daughter said, "I’ve seen them in other school zones and they seem to be working, but they’re not flashing here. Or is it only when they’re in school?"

While Eyewitness News wasn’t able to reach anyone with the school, Miser suspected they were still in the process of getting the lights programmed.

She said the new signals will be going up at hundreds of schools across the county thru 2017, paid for in large part with a federal transportation grant.

The International School on busy Michigan Road should see the new signs go up in the next few weeks.

Dan Reynolds, principal of the upper school, said, "I think we're pretty happy about having the flashing lights. I think it raises greater awareness to slow down in a school zone while the students are here."

He likes it for another reason as well: the speed limit along Michigan is 45 m.p.h. and the school is a good quarter mile from the road.

"We get complaints about us being so far away from the road and yet and they have to slow down, like it's our fault for having the sign there, so I think it will be good all-around," he said.

That’s because schools will program the flashing lights based on when they’re needed, not all day or when schools are on break.

Benjamin Erny, an art teacher at the International School. agreed "it can be confusing if there aren’t flashing lights to know if school is in session or on holiday."

Lawson said flashing lights or not, she would continue to play it safe.

"I think you should use caution any time you’re around a school."