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Putting Child Safety Ahead of Speed

Author / Coordinator: MN Dept. of Transportation
MN Dept. of Transportation
March 2007

Nothing should come before the safety of our children. I have introduced legislation this session on an issue of importance to us all, especially those of us with kids in school: a bill to lower speed limits in the school zones of Minnesota’s communities.

Current Minnesota law lets local authorities establish a school zone speed limit only on the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation as prescribed by, and with the consent of, the Department of Transportation (MnDOT). A large number of parents, school administrators, and public officials have expressed frustration with the “red tape” involved in lowering a speed limit near a school. Several citizens’ groups and schools, in both metro and rural communities, have experienced delays of over a year when trying to lower speed limits around schools. Parents and citizens should not have to work so hard to ensure their children’s safety.

My legislation will provide that upon the request of a school board and local unit of government, MnDOT must establish a school zone speed limit of 25 mph. If the current speed limit of the road is greater than 45 mph, the school zone speed limit would be 20 mph lower than the existing posted limit.

Currently, 24 states already have mandatory school zone speed limits ranging from 15 mph to 25 mph. In North Dakota, the limit is 20 mph, in South Dakota15 mph, Iowa 25 mph and Wisconsin 15 mph.

Here in Minnesota, there has been more than one case – and one is too many – of a child being injured or killed by a car near a school.

In 2000, 14-year-old Spencer Ingvalson was riding his bike through a crosswalk behind Apple Valley High School -- where the speed limit is 45 miles an hour – when he was hit and killed by an oncoming car.

Last December, Ryan Marquis – also 14 - darted into traffic near his school in Lindstrom and was killed by an oncoming car. The speed limit there was also 45 miles per hour. And close to home, a student was hurt in an incident near Skyview Community School in Oakdale.

A few years ago, the Centennial School District requested a lower speed limit in front of their schools. After such a request is made, MnDOT performs an engineering and traffic survey, and then makes a recommendation on what the speed limit should be. MnDOT performed a traffic study and, nearly a year after the original request was made, recommended that the speed limit in front of the school be raised from 50 mph to 55 mph, in order to facilitate traffic flow.

We need a culture change regarding speeding in Minnesota. Parents should not have to fight with state agencies in order to get cars to slow down in a school zone. If my legislation is enacted, our area schools will not have to fight so hard for a little common sense.