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Signs, signs, everywhere are signs

Inconsistent speed signs through town leave residents confused

by: KATE WENNERSTROM/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - There has been some confusion among drivers about the speed limit signs by schools. Above, are road signs near Crooked River Elementary School on Third Street.

For many local residents, the varying school zone speed limits create a confusing network of neighborhoods to travel through.
   As an example, a person can travel from one end of town to the other and encounter three different school zone regulations.
   With most of the five Prineville schools having direct access to the state highway running through the city, the speed limit is a concern voiced by local residents and echoed by police officers.
   "The problem we're having is we have several different school zones and they're not consistent," said Dawn Jordan, PPD police officer. "I know they're trying to work that out, because we're trying to get consistency for people. People are always calling us and even I'm confused."
   Currently, the law states that school zones on roadways adjacent to school grounds can either be: when flashing or school days 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Zones where a crosswalk is away from school grounds can either be: when flashing or when children are present.
   "What's enforceable is when kids might be present," said Jimmy O'Daniel, patrol sergeant for the Prineville Police Department (PPD). "So, it's 20 mph when kids might be there."
   The sign confusion begins with an inaccurate sign on Third Street near the Shell Station for Ochoco Elementary. According to the law, it should state "When Flashing or When Children are Present", instead, it says "School Days 7 a.m. to 5 p.m."
   Additionally, the signs in front of Crooked River Elementary seem to cause frustration with local residents when the PPD's radar reader board is placed in front of the school. The street sign states "20 mph when flashing". However, the speed sign on the radar reader states 20 mph, giving the impression that even though the lights are not flashing, the 30 mph sign is incorrect and travelers should be going 20 mph.
   The signs in front of Crook County High School state "20 mph when flashing", which seemingly would give way to the 35 mph sign when not flashing. Crook County Middle School and Cecil Sly Elementary have regular street signs that state 20 mph, which would appear to mean at all times. However, the crosswalk on Third Street next to the middle school has a "when flashing" sign for travelers heading west. When driving east, the sign points to a pedestrian crosswalk, without a definitive speed limit.
   O'Daniel said that 20 mph is enforceable whenever children might be present at the school or school grounds, justifying the 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. rule to all school zones in Prineville.
   While the speed limits in the school zones may continue to confuse drivers, the reasoning behind the low speed limits remains the same.
   "I know the law has been inconsistent and it is confusing," Jordan said. "But, we have to remember what is safe for the kids. 20 mph, that's safe."