Veering outside West U city limits:
We all want children to be safe. And I don’t believe there should be any mercy for those who exceed the speed limit in legally adopted school zones. But over the course of the last half-dozen years or so, many West University Place residents have contacted me and questioned the legality of the St. Mark’s Episcopal School zone on Bellaire Boulevard, including eight emails and calls in the past two months.
Back In 2017, I did the research and found that Southside Place does not meet the requirements on school zone times that are mandated in the Procedures for Establishing School Zones published by the Texas Department of Transportation. Specifically, “the zones indicated on the signs should be in effect …from approximately 45 minutes before school opens until classes begin” and “for a 30-minute period beginning at the close of school.” But the signage on Bellaire Boulevard reads 7:30-9 a.m. while St. Mark’s Episcopal School starts at 8 a.m. So the maximum effective time for the morning school zone should be 7:15 to 8 a.m.
To be fair, I did this research because I received a ticket for going 35 mph at 8:47 a.m. — allegedly violating the school zone speed limit on Bellaire Boulevard in Southside Place. I pleaded “not guilty” and asked for a jury trial. The prosecutor asked me what my defense was. So I showed him the state regulations. He told me I was correct and dismissed the ticket. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the many drivers with a similar set of facts who weren’t so lucky.
I notified both City Manager David Moss and Police Chief Don McCall of my findings, that their hours were not legally defensible. Both were polite, but no changes were made.
McCall claims incorrectly that the school zone also applies to Pershing Middle School. But Pershing is way too far away to be part of a school zone on Bellaire Boulevard. Just drive north on Braes Boulevard (turns into Auden Street) towards Bellaire Boulevard, and view the “End School Zone” sign before you get to Gramercy Street. But even if Pershing Middle School did apply, school starts there at 8:30 a.m. I have tried to ignore this issue for years hoping that Southside Place, a delightful town, would do the right thing and quietly change its policy to conform with state requirements. But it has been a long wait.
So my advice is while we are waiting and you get a school zone ticket that does not conform with the TDT requirements, Google ‘Procedures for Establishing School Zones.” Make a copy of Chapter 2, Section 4 — School Zone Speeds and take it to court with you. It is only two pages long and the language is quite clear.
Come on, Southside Place – you can’t enforce the law by breaking the law.