Rules of the Road: Why are there school zones nowhere near schools?


Question: On Orleans Street in Bellingham there is a fully marked school speed zone, and it seems to be vigorously enforced by Bellingham police. The problem is, there's no school anywhere near this "school zone"! The nearest school (Sunnyland Elementary) is so far away that its not even in the same ZIP code as the school zone.

Washington state law (WAC 468-95-330) seems clear on where a school speed zone can be located on city streets: "The school or playground speed zone may extend up to 300 feet from the border of the school or playground property," and further states, "The speed zone may only include the area consistent with active school or playground use."

This is not the case here. Who decided to declare this a school zone in the first place, and why does BPD choose to spend limited resources on issuing citations in a seemingly illegal school zone?

Answer: Great question. The Orleans Street crosswalk that is marked as a school zone is actually part of the Safe Routes to School plan for students who attend Sunnyland Elementary and live too close to qualify for busing. The WAC that you reference covers where the signs may be located and what they must look like, but does not cover all of the locations where they may be used.

Q: Does driving with a baby qualify you for HOV (carpool) lane use?

A: The requirement to use the HOV lane is to have two or more people in the vehicle. I did not see any age restrictions listed.


Rules of the Road is an online forum with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices. To ask a question, use this form.

David Wright is a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

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