Applegate school zone sign appears to be incorrect

There seems to be a variety of opinions from a lot of different Applegate-area folks concerning the speed-limit signs on Highway 238 at Applegate School, near the community of Applegate.

The "School" sign reads "20 mph When Children Are Present." My understanding is "When Children are Present" means when children are walking along the roadside, 24/7 and 365 days a year. Some think it means when school is in session — there are children "present" in the school located at the top of the hill while not visible from the roadway.

Most school zones have the hours 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Why can't this one read the same? Or why is it needed at all when all the kids enter the school via car or bus?

There have been a few traffic stops in front of the school, but no one knows what the infraction was about. Some people drive normal speeds at all times and others do 20 mph when they think school may be in session, but who knows when school is in session with all the extra days off?

Could you please clarify this for everyone driving Highway 238 through Applegate?

— Jan E., Jacksonville

My guess is that the traffic stops you've seen are probably for other violations. Other than as warning signs, these particular signs seem to be out of compliance with the current school-zone laws. The meaning of "children are present" as stated in ORS 811.124 is that children are present at any time and on any day when children are:

(a) Occupying or walking within a crosswalk; or

(b) Waiting on the curb or shoulder of the highway at a crosswalk; or

(c) A traffic-patrol member is present to assist children at a crosswalk.

The operative word in each subsection is "crosswalk," and there is no crosswalk in front of Applegate School, so I don't see how these particular signs can be enforced.

It appears to me they need to have either a flashing light that operates during times children are arriving at or leaving from school or a sign that specifies the speed reduction during the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Since this is a state highway, the best thing to do if you'd like to address getting it changed is to call the Oregon Department of Transportation (1-888-275-6368).

Dace Cochran is a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

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