How are school zone speed zones assigned, and can they ever be changed? We drive on Springbrook Road and/or Roberts Road most days. There is a considerable distance from Springbrook Road to the campus of North Medford High School, although there are some sports fields close to Springbrook.

Late afternoon, there are sometimes students on the sports fields, but otherwise there are rarely students near Springbrook. Vehicles are slowing to 20 mph when there are rarely any students in sight. On Roberts Road, which is posted also for North Medford High School, the school zone sign is posted for 20 mph “when children are present.” Why the difference? We see lots more students on Roberts Road than we ever see on Springbrook Road.

— Sue S., via email

To your first question, Sue: Speed zones are governed by state law, according to Medford Transportation Manager Karl MacNair.

Now to the rest of it: Oregon Revised Statute 801.462 defines a school zone as either a segment of highway adjacent to school grounds that is marked by signs indicating that it is a school zone (we’ll call this Type A), or a crosswalk that is not adjacent to school grounds, and that is marked by signs indicating it is a school zone (let’s call this Type B.)

These two definitions also come with different rules for speeding violations. Under ORS 811.111, a person violates the speed limit under a Type A school zone when they exceed 20 mph between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a school day. Under Type B, you’re speeding if you’re going over 20 mph “when children are present.”

To clarify, the definition of “when children are present” includes children being in a crosswalk, waiting to cross a crosswalk, or when a crossing guard is present.

“At North Medford High School, we apply these laws to two different streets and get two different results,” MacNair told us in an email, adding that Springbrook Road runs adjacent to a school property, classifying it as Type A. Roberts Road does not run adjacent to a school property, so it is classified as Type B.

For both scenarios, a flashing light is allowed to be used to indicate when the school speed zone is in effect instead of the statutory conditions mentioned, but North Medford High School does not have them, MacNair said.

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