Statement about school speed limits in Scunthorpe district needs a bit of interpretation says columnist Hugh Rogers
As is sadly, sometimes the case with communications from the Council, the piece about school safety zones in the current edition of the Council's "News Direct" requires interpretation.
For the benefit of the readers of Scunthorpe's Finest, the situation is that so-called school safety zones were introduced a long time ago under a different Council - they included advisory (ie non-mandatory) 20 mph limits and parking restrictions. They seem to be working well and no-one with any sense would disagree with them. (The fact that the maximum period of danger for children of infant and junior school age isn't actually when they exit school gates - they are usually with their parents at such times - but when they get home and go out for rides on their bikes. Accident statistics support this. But we will leave this on one side as a piece of nit-picking on my part)
But the "experimental schemes" trumpeted by the Council's newsletter are something entirely different. They impose mandatory 20mph speed limits for short stretches outside schools, sometimes, as is the case in Burringham, in the middle of 40 mph zones.
Personally, if I'm passing a school with children about, I will slow down anyway, but at such times my attention is likely to be concentrated on the children, not on my speedometer. And if you're coming down from near 40mph to 20mph without having been warned of the reduction in the speed limit, the chances are quite high that you will enter the zone at more than 20mph, thereby committing an absolute offence. The limit is mandatory and perpetual, applying even when the school in question is shut and any children the limit might have protected have gone on holiday with their parents!
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To her credit, Council Leader Liz Redfern appears to accept that this "always on" mandatory limit might not be the best solution and indicated a while ago that the zones would be altered to what might be termed a "new improved mandatory" version so that they operate only "when the lights flash" (ie when the school is open) and this seems sensible. However, so far as I know, the only site where this has actually been put in place is in Belton, where it seems to work very well.
It remains unclear whether the heralded new zones in Messingham, Luddington, Bottesford etc. will be "old style advisory" "perpetual mandatory" or the "new improved lights-flashing mandatory" which Belton residents currently enjoy and which is probably the best option. Perhaps Ms Redfern or one of her cohorts could enlighten us. The piece in the newsletter is, I am sorry to say, extremely sloppily written and, though I am sure the effect was unintentional, might inadvertently misinform readers, thereby robbing them of the chance to lodge objections (as is their democratic right) before such schemes are implemented. My own view is that school safety zones are useful and I wouldn't wish them away. But of the three versions, I favour what I call the "Belton model" which maintains safety at the right times but does not lead drivers into committing inadvertent and unnecessary offences when schools are shut and there are no children at risk.