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Slow down: school - and speed limits -are in session

It happens every year.

This time, it was less than an hour from the yellow flashing sign’s fall debut in front of Tom McCall Upper Elementary School Monday that a Forest Grove Police officer had to pull over a driver for going too fast in a school zone.

Not only have classes begun for the 2015-16 academic year, but motorists are finding out they, too, have lessons to learn.

Oregon law sets the speed limit at 20 mph on roads next to school grounds anytime the yellow light is flashing between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on school days. And remember the crosswalk rule: If any pedestrian — children or adults — is nearing any crosswalk — marked or unmarked — drivers must stop and let them cross.

In the Forest Grove School District, that slower speed is now in force in and around 11 campuses. Especially in front of Tom McCall on Pacific Avenue — which has a high volume of foot traffic every morning and afternoon — drivers are well advised to take it easy on the accelerator.

“Kids often walk to and from school more independently there,” said Forest Grove Fire Marshal Dave Nemeyer. “They are older kids and don’t always have their parents with them. It’s much harder to pay attention when you are a kid walking with your buddies than it is when you are a kid walking with mom.”

Dozens of children and teens are killed each year in the U.S. while walking or biking to and from school, and thousands more are injured. Let’s do what we can to not contribute to those statistics this school year.

As if that weren’t enough, hefty fines can be levied for speeding or otherwise breaking the law in a school zone. According to the Oregon Judicial Department, a driver can get a ticket ranging from $251 to $1,300 for such infractions — a pretty deep dive into an offender’s pocketbook.

In short, the more careful we are as drivers, the safer our local students will be. This week especially, and stretching into fall, there are two important words to remember: slow down.