What Happens When You Crash in a School Zone?
As St. Louis gears up for another school year, the familiar rhythm of life returns to the city’s school zones. Driving in a school zone means paying special attention to speed limits and signage to protect young pedestrians.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are an average of 113 school-transportation-related crash fatalities annually. Knowing what to do if you’re involved in a school zone accident can protect your rights and help you receive compensation if a negligent driver causes a collision.
A school zone is a defined area surrounding a school, marked by signs and specific regulations aimed at ensuring the safety of students and pedestrians. These zones are strategically positioned to manage traffic flow and minimize risks during peak hours—typically when children arrive or depart from school.
Reduced speed limits are enforced within these areas during these times to enhance pedestrian safety. In St. Louis, the Department of Highways and Traffic head has the authority to set school zone speed limits and the hours when they must be followed.
Speed limits will be no faster than 25 mph or up to 10 mph slower than the regular speed limit where the school is located. These speed limits are in effect for specific periods between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.
When drivers break the law in a school zone, they may face strict penalties in Missouri. Negligent actions can include speeding, texting while driving, or improperly passing.
The law in Missouri prohibits cell phone use and texting while driving on Missouri roads, including school zones. The recently signed Senate Bill 398, also called Siddens Bening Hands Free Law, prohibits manual scrolling, typing, or holding cell phones when driving.
This can include the following actions:
- Holding or supporting cell phone physically
- Typing, sending, and reading text messages manually
- Recording, posting, sending, or broadcasting video
- Watching videos or movies
Set to go into effect on August 28, 2023, drivers who break this law may be fined up to $150 for a first-time conviction. However, the fine may automatically be increased to $500 in a school zone. Violating the law can also result in a misdemeanor charge or felony, depending on the harm caused to victims.
Passing another vehicle within a school zone is strictly prohibited. The emphasis on safety and minimizing risk outweighs any urgency to overtake vehicles. Various other traffic violations within school zones also come with fines and court costs:
|Follow too closely||$39.50||$60.50||$100|
|Pass/Overtake Stopped School Bus||$93||$60.50||$153.50|
|Violation of School Stop Sign while Loading or Unloading Children||$93||$60.50||$153.50|
If you find yourself involved in a school zone accident in Missouri, take the following actions to safeguard your rights and receive appropriate medical attention:
- Prioritize safety: Ensure the immediate safety of all involved parties. If there are injuries, call for medical assistance immediately. Even if you don’t feel injured, get checked by a healthcare provider so they can assess for hidden injuries like internal bleeding or traumatic brain injuries.
This gets you the necessary care and provides a record of your injuries for a possible compensation claim.
- Contact the police: You must contact the police for auto accidents involving injuries, death, or more than $500 in property damage in Missouri. Aside from following the law, reporting the incident creates an official, impartial record of the accident that your lawyer can use to support your case.
- Gather information: Collect as much information as possible—exchange contact details with other parties, including witnesses. Take photos of the accident scene, vehicle positions, damage, and relevant traffic signs or signals. Your attorney will use this evidence to determine liability.
- Seek legal counsel: A car accident attorney from Cofman Townsley can guide you through the legal process after a school zone crash, protect your rights, and help you negotiate for fair compensation with an at-fault party.
Preventing accidents in school zones begins with responsible driving practices. Here are some essential tips:
- Adhere to speed limits: Respect the posted speed limit within school zones, often reduced during school hours. Children can be unpredictable, and lower speeds allow for quicker reactions.
- Come to a full stop: Always come to a complete stop at stop signs, even at school zone entrances. This ensures that you have ample time to observe any potential hazards.
- Avoid distractions: Put down your cell phone and other distractions, such as food, while driving through school zones. Focus your attention on the road and surroundings.
- Yield to pedestrians: Always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, especially in crosswalks. Exercise extra caution when children are present.
- Stay patient: Traffic congestion is common during drop-off and pick-up times in school zones. Stay patient and avoid aggressive driving behavior.
If you’ve been involved in a school zone accident and need legal assistance, our experienced auto collision lawyers at Cofman Townsley can help. Our team of skilled auto collision lawyers is committed to helping you navigate the aftermath of a school zone crash.
We understand the laws related to school zone incidents and will provide guidance and personalized representation to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Contact us today to discuss your case and receive the support you need during this challenging time.