“our city just doesn’t give a sh*t about school zone speed limits”

by Prince Of Petworth September 15, 2016 at 2:05 pm 32 Comments

speed limit
Photo by PoPville flickr user Phil

“Dear PoPville,

I’ve noticed something since becoming a driver in DC: our city just doesn’t give a sh*t about school zone speed limits. I drive past the PCS on Riggs NW near North Cap and LaSalle a few blocks further north a few mornings a week, and I’m almost always the only sucker who actually obeys these 15mph limits while others zoom on by. Usually I just chalk it up to rush hour impatience, but today I worked from home in the morning and drove up around 1pm, and had the same experience (not sure why the zone lights were flashing in the middle of the day, but they were). I actually had a short but heated verbal confrontation with a fellow in a Home Depot truck when he leaned on his horn behind me in the middle of the zone, which ultimately pissed me off enough to make me want to write.

What is going on here? Do others have this experience in other parts of the city? Are school zones just not enforced generally? I’d imagine if there were ever a place to obey/enforce these limits, it’d be where children are clustered. I didn’t grow up here, but where I did, cops would issue tickets on a daily basis in the hundreds of $ for going slightly above school zone limits, so that probably makes me a bit more cautious than average. Still….Its kind of a appalling. Wondering what others think.”

  • Shmoo

    I’ve found that, generally, in DC, moving violations are not enforced at all. You ever been or heard of anyone ever being pulled over for a speeding ticket in the district? In over 10 years of living here, I never have.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve seen Secret Serivce and Park Police actually pull over drivers in the CBD during rush hour for running red lights and dangerous mid-block u-turns. But never MPD.

    • Bort

      Pretty sure this is it. Just zero enforcement of traffic laws whatsoever. There is a school zone on Rhode Island near…8th or 9th or so in NW where cars in the morning regularly do 50mph in the face of the flashing school zone lights. A speed camera would make a killing on this stretch. That being said, I do know someone who managed to get a speeding ticket from an actual human cop in DC once about 10 years ago. DC pretty much prints money issuing parking tickets, which I’m guessing affect safety very little. They could probably make significant dough by enforcing moving violations as well. I do not understand why they do not. If anyone here does understand, please enlighten us!

      • shmoo

        This goes along with the chase rules in dc. i think cops cant chase you unless they saw you commit a violent crime. Something like that. Im sure i have the specifics wrong. So if you speed by a cop, they cant, by their own rules, chase you top give you a ticket.

      • eva

        MPD does not have a traffic enforcement division. That means there are zero officers tasked with enforcing moving violations.

        All officers are permitted to do so in the course of their work, but given that they are working actively on other things it does not happen perhaps with the frequency that you might expect if you come from a jurisdiction that uses traffic enforcement as a revenue stream.

        • OP Anon

          “MPD does not have a traffic enforcement division. That means there are zero officers tasked with enforcing moving violations.”
          WTF. This is crazy. Why wouldn’t they have one?!?! Who else do they expect to handle moving violations? I swear, this is just one of those basic organizational things that makes you scratch your head and say “What the f#ck?”

    • DCliving

      I was pulled over a few months back for “speeding” on RI Ave. MPD van. It was rush hour and couldn’t have been going over 30. The cop was mean and aggressive. He didn’t give me a ticket but it was a very strange situation.

    • ANM

      I disagree. I’ve been pulled over for using a cell phone while driving. I’ve also been pulled over for running a red light (I did not, was turning on yellow) and for doing a “California stop” at a stop sign. Your assertion that moving violations are simply ignored is incorrect.

      • Bort

        I guess I feel a little bit better that there are exceptions.

      • JohnH

        I mean….they happen. But how many times do you ever see a cop pulled over with a car? It’s rather rare. So it happens, but it’s certainly not your typical enforcement you may see elsewhere.

    • navyard

      It’s my pet peeve! Every day I cross the Douglas Bridge and when I drive around the back of Nats Park, about every third car coming into the city makes an illegal U-turn on Potomac Avenue.
      What drives me the most crazy is that this happens even on game days when there are 15-20 police cars RIGHT THERE! But they are all too busy chit-chatting at the intersection to give a darn. I can’t tell you how many times I see near misses because someone is making a U-turn (without a blinker) and the car behind has to stop on a dime.

      And while I’m on this rant, why does no one use blinkers anymore? Too cool? Dude, it’s not for you. it’s for the other drivers on the road so we can try to predict what you’re about to do.

      • ***

        In that case, never travel to New Mexico. I grew up there… no one uses a turn signal. Or if they do, they drive around for miles with it on, obviously not intending to change lanes.

    • U Street

      I’ve seen drivers pull illegal u-turns in front of police on the U and 14th St intersection! Nothing is ever done…

    • Brett M

      Yes, it happens all the time. Just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur. Look at DC traffic violations statistics.

      But the better question is why are DC’s speeding cameras on the highways instead of in front of our schools? Because DDOT and the Council care more about setting up speed traps than about the safety of schoolchildren.

  • neighbor

    This is pretty much the same as any other traffic violation in the district.

  • Anonymous

    ” I didn’t grow up here, but where I did…..”
    This right here is where your expectations are all wrong. DC’s motto: “Go along to get along; f#ck everyone else.”
    Just like the asshat on Columnia Road yesterday who made a 4-point u-turn in the middle of the block to get a parking space, holding up rush hour traffic and nearly getting hit by cars in both directions.

    • NH Ave Hiker

      Just like when people pull out from the curb literally in front of me to make a U-turn. Almost like it’s their right. Drives me effing crazy.

  • transplanted

    On the one hand, people should definitely obey the school zone limits. But on the other hand, the reason they’re so zealously enforced in places like where you (and I) grew up and not here is that in most places drivers are unaccustomed to seeing groups of people walking around, crossing the street, darting into traffic, and need to slow down to be ready for this unusual traffic situation. In DC our speed limits are already at residential levels and everyone is accustomed to watching for/expecting pedestrian shenanigans, so it’s less of a concern.

    • Matthew Bruckner

      Nonsense. Safe speeds are below 20mph, which is the maximum speed drivers can be going so that pedestrian can routinely survive being hit by cars. DC’s 25mph limit (especially if driven at 35) is not a “residential level.” In any case, it’s definitely not a safe speed.

      • Cam

        +1. Nonsense. Please drive the speed limit in a school zone. These speed restrictions should be enforced.

      • transplanted

        25 is a residential level. It’s the posted speed limit in residential areas. And it’s not because you can be hit by a car that doesn’t brake and survive easily, it’s because you can stop more quickly at slower speeds.

    • HaileUnlikely

      The city is sizable and heterogeneous in its layout and pedestrian infrastructure. I invite you to walk to the school the OP is writing about from a mile away (in any direction) at rush hour. It will not be pleasant, I promise.

  • Matthew Bruckner

    Obeying school zone speed limits does not make you a sucker!

  • Marty

    Related – when was the last time you saw a school bus use its flashing red lights to pick up or discharge kids in this town? Maybe once in three weeks I’ll see a school bus do this (and I pass by a dozen a day between walking the dog, commuting, etc) – including the buses that drop off kids at my kids school. I watch them stop, open the doors, let off kids, and pull away all without ever turning on a red light. Do the bus drivers just not want to piss other drivers off??

  • Potomac Elle

    And I love it when, at 3pm pickup time, the parents park in the crosswalks, block the fire hydrants and double park.

  • ***

    Frankly, this does not surprise me. DC roads are lawless, demolition derbies.

  • I’m sure in your drivers ed book it states you only slow down to posted speed limit in school when the light is flashing.

    • ***

      OP mentions lights were flashing

  • AMS

    What differentiates DC school zones with those in other cities I’ve lived in is that in DC, the school zone yellow lights flash all day every day or not at all. This means that it’s never something you notice like “OMG the light is flashing! It must be 2:45! I need to slow down!” Here, it’s just another sign or another signal that’s easy to ignore. Having known a child who was hit by a car in a school zone, I am of fully supportive of more policing of school zones.

    • eva

      Maybe this is the case in some areas of DC, but definitely not the case in the two school zones I pass through every single day. The lights only flash during the arrival and departure of students.

  • Mary

    You are correct about this. Happens in our neighborhood

  • EHDC

    This happens in MtP, too, and is really frustrating! Requests for traffic calming measures have been denied by the District (one is still pending, though), and requests to police to monitor speeding (especially in the morning when kids are commuting to Bancroft) have also been ignored. It’s very frustrating and feels like an accident waiting to happen! I wish the District would take more care, and drivers would be more considerate and cautious.


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