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Be clear on school safety

It's probably best that Oregon's 24-hour school zone speed limit law has been shelved.

But safety around schools, parks and other places where youngsters gather and play should remain a priority.

State legislators passed the legislation in 2003, pointing out that schools are not just 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. activity centers. Legislators were right then, and they are still right. In many communities, schools are either located alongside a park or serve as a playground for communities with too few parks.

But like many things, the devil was in the details - and in this case, the understanding of the law. The problem with the law on school zone speed limits, which required motorists to slow down to 20 mph even in the middle of the night, was that it was a nuisance.

Taking heed, the 2005 Legislature amended law with new rules that took affect on July 1. Motorists are now required to slow to 20 mph between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on school days, if a flashing school zone light is activated or approaching any crosswalk in the proximity of a school.

Double fines will still be enforced in zones where flashing lights are in operation, but not in zones where the 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. speed limit is enforced by signage only. Motorists will see new signs going up over the next two months - in time for the start of school.

In the meantime, drivers have two good choices: Follow the old, confusing signs until the new signs are posted and, when in doubt, slow down to 20 mph. It may save a child's life.