The roadways in and around school buildings have special speed limit regulations for the protection of students during the school day. Young children, who might not know any better or fail to pay attention, can run out into the highway and create a dangerous safety situation for all involved. The burden is on the motorist to watch and obey all speed control signs. As a result, Michigan law punishes drivers who disobey traffic laws inside of school zones more harshly due to the higher risks involved.
"School zone", as defined in MCL 257.628(1)(c), "means school property on which a school building is located and the adjacent property. A school zone extends not more than 1,000 feet from the school property line in any direction. If 2 or more schools occupy the same property or adjacent properties, 1 of the following applies, as applicable:
- (i) If the hours of instruction at the schools are the same, then a single combined school zone shall be established.
- (ii) If the hours of instruction at the schools are different, overlapping school zones shall be established.
Special speed limits may be established in school zones as follows:
- "A school zone speed limit on a highway segment in a school zone, which, except as otherwise provided in this subsection, shall be in force not more than 30 minutes before the first regularly scheduled school session, rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 minutes, until school commences, and from dismissal until not more than 30 minutes after the last regularly scheduled school session, rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 minutes, may be decreased by not more than 20 miles per hour less than the speed limit normally posted but shall be not less than 25 miles per hour." MCL 257.627a(2).
- "Regularly scheduled school session" means that part of a day scheduled for student instruction until final dismissal of the student body for that day. MCL 257.627a(1)(a). If the school is in session year-round, a sign reading "All Year School" shall be posted on the same signpost as and immediately below the school zone sign. MCL 257.627a(5).
- "School" means an educational institution operated by a local school district or by a private, denominational, or parochial organization. School does not include an educational institution that the department of education determines has its entire student population in residence at the institution (e.g. boarding school) or an educational institution to which all students are transported in motor vehicles (e.g. no school bus service). MCL 257.627a(1)(b).
- School zone speed limits shall not apply to a limited access highway or a highway segment over which a pedestrian overhead walkway is erected, if the walkway is adjacent to school property. MCL 257.627a(3).
Motorists are required to obey all speed control signs in a school zone, especially when the regularly scheduled school day is in session, or else face harsher consequences. All Michigan drivers should be aware of the following enhanced penalties:
- A person responsible for a moving violation in a school zone is subject to a fine that is DOUBLE the fine otherwise prescribed for that moving violation. MCL 257.601b(1). For example, if the usual ticket for speeding 5 to 10 miles over the limit is $100.00, it will be $200.00 if the same conduct occurred in a school zone.
- Driving in excess of the legal speed limit in a school zone is a civil infraction punishable by a fine. In addition, more points will be added on a person's Michigan driving record than if the speed occurred in a non-school zone, to wit:
- 5 points for driving more than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit in a school zone. MCL 257.320a(1)(g).
- 4 points for driving between 11-15 miles per hour over the speed limit in a school zone. MCL 257.320a(1)(k).
- 3 points for driving between 1-10 miles per hour over the speed limit in a school zone. MCL 257.320a(1)(w).
School zone violations are serious and can result in substantial fines. A person accused of a civil infraction is not required to admit responsibility and can request a formal or informal hearing before a district court judge or magistrate. An experienced traffic attorney can protect your rights by negotiating a favorable resolution with the prosecutor or, if the evidence against you is weak, obtain an acquittal after an evidentiary hearing. You can expect that the prosecutor and the courts will take school zone violations seriously, so your defense should be just as vigorous.
If you or a loved one is accused of any traffic violation, do not hesitate to contact the skilled lawyers at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.