EDITORIAL: School zone change overdue

School zones within Oak Harbor city limits are now clearly marked and consistent citywide, which should make them safer for students walking to and from school and less confusing to motorists.

The new signs limit speed in school zones to 20 miles per hour from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. That’s clear as a bell, especially compared to the old signs which added the codicil, “when children are present.” That was a real head scratcher for motorists as they looked around to see if any children were visible. Pity the poor police officers who had to debate the meaning of that message to speeding motorists they pulled over during school hours.

The change was made at the request of Police Chief Steve Almon after which the proposal was reviewed by a committee of city and school officials. The new signs were installed over the holidays. After a period of issuing warning notices, monetary penalties for violating the speed limit began last week.

If there was any flaw in the process, it was the lack of sufficient public notice about the change. School zone speed limits are of high interest to the public. Citizens should have been notified in a number of ways, rather than simply by attaching flags to the new signs. An announcement at a city council meeting would have helped, or even early notification to this newspaper. In light of the insufficient public notice, maybe the presiding judge will give a break to anyone who received a ticket in recent days.

Overall, however, the speed limit clarification in school zones was something that has been needed for years. All it took to get it done was a new police chief.

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