Lawmakers wasting time on speed zones near schools

January 25, 2005 12:00 am

OK, pop quiz:

1. What's the most pressing issue before the 2005 legislature:

a. School funding

b. The cost of benefits for state workers

c. Economic development

d. Changing school zones speed limits from "at all times" back to "when children are present"

2. True or false: It's incredibly distressing that the answer to Question 1 is "d"

How did you do?

Yup, the light has just turned green and already the Oregon legislature is in need of a traffic stop.

Rep. Vick Berger, R-Salem, is shopping for cosponsors for a bill that would overturn a 2003 law that replaced 20 mph speed limits in school zones "when children are present" with "at all times."

Apparently, slowing down to 20 mph for the few hundred feet it takes to pass a school is a burden for Berger's Salem constituents.

No wonder it takes state agencies in Salem so long to get anything done — they're stuck slowing down in school zones!

Berger isn't alone. Rep. Chuck Burley, R-Bend, thinks "it is an issue of total inconsistency. At 10 or 11 when you're heading home from the office, I've got to creep along when there are not going to be kids out there."

Point taken. Slowing down at 11 p.m. when students are probably not present doesn't seem like the best traffic safety regulation.

But school zones deserve different treatment. Schools are places where our government forces young people together in groups during the day. At night, schools host music, drama and sporting programs that may keep a school building in use even as Rep. Burley is headed home from the office.

And let's face it: these young people often lack the life perspective that informs an adult's decision not to step into traffic. Slowing down traffic on government-regulated roads adjacent to schools is a prudent part of having such facilities.

But spending more valuable legislative time revising those speed limits laws?