School Zone Speed Limits

a schoolgirl girl with a STOP sign crosses the road or learns the rules of the road

Illinois law has long had a law regarding speed limits in school zones. The law requires motor vehicles to operate, on a school day when children are present, at a speed of no more than 20 miles per hour while passing through designated school zones.

In February of 2012, Governor Quinn approved Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s request to use cameras across Chicago to cite drivers speeding in school zones and fine them as much as $100 while promoting child safety. In April of 2012, the Chicago City Council approved the Mayor’s plan to place speed cameras near schools and parks across the City.

Enforcement was to go into effect on July 1 with first time offenders receiving a warning for up to 30 days after the cameras were turned on. The number of cameras was limited to 300, down from an estimated 360 and the hours of operation for school zone cameras was reduced to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. The fine for going 6 to 10 mph over the speed limit was also reduced to $35, down from the original $50.

While the original law remains in effect, the cameras have hit a snag as bidders answering a proposal to provide the cameras were confronted by a 30+ year old opinion from the Illinois Attorney Generals’ Office (Number S-706) which stated, in part, that the vehicle speed limit of 20 miles per hour was enforceable “only during school days while the vehicle is passing a school zone or is traveling on a street on or across which children pass going to or from school, and then only when children are physically present on such street or are outside the school building in a school zone. The 20 mile speed limit is not in effect when the children are inside the school building even though school is in session.”

This opinion has forced potential camera suppliers to consider how they would operate robotic equipment that would simultaneously capture a speeding car and its license plate, as well a child who could be football field’s distance away.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the new cameras were set to be installed in November but City officials admit that the necessary legal clarification may delay the program until sometime in 2013. Whether you agree with the use of remote speeding cameras or not, it is important to remember that there is a current 20 mile per hour speed limit on the streets that directly surround the Chicago’s 1,800 schools and parks that ensures the safety of the children going to and from those locations.