Committing traffic offenses in school zones may attract harsher penalties than committing the same offenses in other areas. It is important to know why this happens to help you avoid the consequences.
What Is a School Zone?
The definition of a school zone may vary according to state, but it generally refers to areas near schools or where school children are likely to be present. For example, a school zone may include these areas:
School property – This may include the actual school compound, as well as other properties owned by and located near the school. For example, if a school leases a building across the street, the property also becomes a school zone.
School crossing – A school crossing may be designated as a school zone whether or not the area has been designated as a school crossing.
In some cases, the school zone laws apply only when the schools are in session or when kids are getting in or out of the school.
Why These Areas Are Dangerous
As you know, school children may not have the same environmental and situational awareness as adults. Younger children may not even be fully aware. Children can even decide to play on roads or cross in undesignated areas near their schools. Thus, they are more likely to get knocked over by negligent drivers.
What Are the Specific Offenses of Which to Be Wary
Not all traffic offenses may attract harsher penalties when committed in school zones. In most cases, the authorities zero in on those offenses that are likely to cause injuries to school children. The most common traffic offenses that pose special dangers to children, and thus attract harsher penalties when committed near school zones, are drunk driving and speeding.
Driving under the influences (DUI) reduces your concentration, reaction time, and ability to track moving objects. Reduced concentration means you may easily be distracted and hit school children. Reduced reaction time means you may not be able to brake in time if you do notice such kids. Reduced ability to track moving objects means you may not be aware of children running or walking near the road.
Then there is also the issue of speeding, which makes it more difficult to avoid emergencies. When driving through a school zone, one minute you may be cruising on an open road and the next minute someone crosses your field of view. Maneuvering the car or breaking to avoid hitting the child may be difficult if you were going over the speed limit. This is the reason school zones have their own special speed limits.
Consult a lawyer, such as those found at The Ryan Law Firm, if you have been charged with a traffic offense committed in a school zone. The possibility of harsher sentences means it's risky to face such charges without legal representation.