Research on School Zone Safety

The safety of children in the vicinity of schools is of paramount importance. School speed zones make areas around schools safer for children that may be walking or using bicycles. A common speed for motor vehicles in active school zones is 25 mph, although some school zones in Nebraska have lower or higher speeds limits in active school zones. Motorist speed compliance may vary in school zones with different speed differentials, i.e., motorists’ speed reduction may be different when a speed limit changes from 45 mph to 25 mph in an active school zone versus a speed limit change from 35 mph to 25 mph. Additionally, there may be differences in motorist speed reduction depending on land use in the vicinity of schools and in urban versus rural settings. For example, motorist compliance with an active school zone speed limit may be higher when a school is visible from the street/roadway, crosswalks and signs are present, or when drop off/pickup lanes are adjacent to a school zone street/roadway. Similarly, motorist speed compliance may be different around schools in small rural communities (population less than 5,000) compared to schools in urban areas. The proposed research has the following objectives: 1) Assess the effects of speed differential on motorist speed compliance in active school zones. 2) Investigate the effects of surrounding land use on motorists’ speed in active school zones. 3) Quantify the safety benefits and costs associated with the creation of school zones. 4) Develop guidelines for school zone establishment in Nebraska.