By David Jenkins
While the beginning of the 2017-’18 school year just two weeks away, there are things to be mindful of other than shopping for back to school supplies.
School zone safety tops the list for those students attending Boggess or Martha Hunt Elementary, Murphy Middle School and McMillen High School. First day of school for the Plano ISD schools is Monday, Aug. 21.
For residents dropping students off at the middle and high school along North Murphy Rd. there are some lights to be aware of.
Most importantly, the two pedestrian crosswalks that were installed on the six-lane road with traffic control light standards, in accordance with the Safe Routes to School.
The standards can be found near the intersections of Shirehurst Dr. and Windsor Dr.
The crosswalks feature clearly marked stripes that point out the proper stopping locations. They operate similar to a regular crosswalk with the main difference being that the new ones feature blinking amber lights at the start.
To cross the street, pedestrians will push the appropriate button and then the amber lights will flash and send a warning to drivers that pedestrians are in the area.
After a set amount of time, the lights turn to a solid amber color, which means a stop is imminent.
From there, the lights start to flash red to indicate that motorists must stop and made sure no one is trying to cross, before turning red indicating motorists must come to a full stop.
“We just want to make sure that people look both ways when approaching those crosswalks. Once that happens they may continue driving again,” Murphy Police Chief Arthur Cotten said.
In addition to the light poles there are indicator lights that are buried in the roadbed. The lights are intended to warn drivers of the lights overhead and they don’t change colors.
Those looking to cross the street will notice a set of instructions on the pole, which includes a 30-second countdown indicating when the lights are no longer active.
School bus loading and unloading is another factor to be aware of when driving in a school zone. The city of Murphy ordinance prohibits passing another vehicle in a school zone when school speed zone limit is in effect.
“You need to make sure not to pass the stopped bus when they have their stop sign out. Buses can be hard to see around so making sure you stop is important,” Cotten said.
On a two-lane road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop. On a multi-lane paved road with no barrier, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop. On a divided highway with a raised median or physical barrier, vehicles behind a bus must stop and vehicles traveling in the opposite direction must proceed with caution.
The city has fines related to excessive speeding in school zones. One to 10 miles per hour over the limit is $230, 11 to 14 over the limit is $255, 15 to 19 over the limit is $305 and 20-plus over the limit is $329. Statewide the fine for using a cell phone, including texting, while driving in a school zone is $200 to $500.