How to Drive Safely in A NYC School Zone

Always drive safely in a school zone

Summary & Quick Facts

  • School zones ensure the safety of children on the streets in neighborhoods that have schools and childcare facilities.
  • Drivers in school zones are asked to drive responsibly and at slower speeds.
  • NYC has speed cameras at 140 school locations and neighborhood slow zones across the city
  • If you are caught speeding by a camera in a school zone, you will receive a $50 parking ticket. 
  • Parking in school zones is typically strictly regulated by No Standing parking signs.
  • The only time parking is allowed in school zones is when school is in recess.

School Zones Should Be Safe Spaces

It should come as no surprise that all NYC drivers should take extra care when driving in school zones and other areas where students frequent. Afterall, there is no reason to drive dangerously around schools and the city wants drivers to know that. The city created school zones to ensure the safety of children on the streets around schools. In fact, studies show that they do work and significantly reduce accidents. At the end of the day, all kids deserve to walk or bike to and from class without fear of getting hit by a car. For this reason, it’s extremely important to not drive carelessly around a school zone.  Moreover, drivers should understand the traffic laws for these locations and follow them at all times. Whether class is in session or out for summer break, drivers are responsible for maintaining safety and awareness on the streets around schools.


How The City Regulates School Zones

Under current NY state law, NYC may have speed cameras at a maximum of 140 school locations. Cameras can also be found in neighborhood slow zones as well. Around two-thirds of speed cameras are fixed and remain in one location. Still, about a third of the city’s speed cameras are mobile and move between school zones. At any given time, however, speed cameras are in operation at no more than 140 school zones.

Many NYC schools have camps and programs during the summer, so although schools may be officially out of session, the rules will still apply. Although NYS does not have a set definition of a school day, speed cameras tend to operate 1/2 hour before student activities begin and 1 hour after school activities end. This means the hours can be as early as 6:30 am and as late as 7 pm in some cases. It is also worth remembering that this time frame applies to private schools like Yeshivas as well. If schools have student activities on Saturday or Sunday the speed cameras can be active on those days. If you are caught on a speed camera, expect to receive a $50 ticket in the mail.


School Zone Speed Limits

School speed limits are a great way to enhance the safety of children who traverse the often busy city streets around schools or childcare facilities. In NYC, the DOT uses Neighborhood Slow Zones to establish speed limits around schools. These slow zones are a community-based program that reduces the speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph and adds safety measures within a selected area in an effort to change drivers’ behaviors behind the wheel. If the school zone area needs a speed bump (aka speed reducer), the speed limit is reduced to 15 mph. School Slow Zones are generally installed on streets with only one moving lane per direction.

The ultimate goal of the Neighborhood Slow Zone program is to lower the incidence and severity of crashes around schools and other areas that need increased safety measures. Slow Zones also seek to enhance the quality of life by reducing cut-through traffic and traffic noise in residential neighborhoods.


Parking In A School Zone

The only time parking is allowed in school zones is when school is in recess.  At all other times during school hours, parking is strictly regulated. Usually by No Standing parking regulations. For more information on No Standing, please check out our article on No Parking, No Standing, No Stopping.

Still, motorists should know that specific schools may be open on holidays and during summer vacations. So even at these times,  parking restrictions will always remain in effect. If schools have summer sessions or are open for teacher meetings, the parking regulations will remain in effect. This is the case even if students are not present. Drivers can reach out to specific schools to verify that they are in recess.

The only time double parking is permitted in a school zone is when a parent or caretaker must deal with a “medical emergency” at their child’s school. If this happens (hopefully not), and you receive a parking ticket, don’t fret! You may fight the ticket for double parking by submitting an official statement from school personnel that states you or a caretaker was called to school for a medical emergency,

If you’re looking for parking, try to park legally. This will be your best bet to avoid getting a hefty ticket. Otherwise, be sure you know the school schedule and abide by it.


Tips For Driving In A School Zone


Recognize School Zones

Whether drivers aren’t aware they are entering a school zone or are distracted by a cell phone conversation, it’s unfortunately common to see drivers haphazardly driving their vehicles in dangerously close proximity to small children. The number one rule to remember about school zones is that you must always be aware of them. Almost all school zones are preceded by numerous warning signs and/or speed bumps. All these signs are in place to ensure that drivers are aware of the approaching school zone before it is too late. Distracted driving is dangerous, especially in a school zone so keep your eyes on the road and your mind on the task at hand at all times


Reduce Your Speed in School Zones

The warning signs that precede school zones often included a reduced speed limit sign. Speed limits in school zones will always be lower than the 25mph citywide speed limit imposed by the Vision Zero program. If you are already traveling the legal limit, you will have time to safely reduce your speed without slamming on the brakes at the last minute.


Be On The Lookout For Buses

Buses may have some difficulty navigating the increase in foot and vehicular traffic during the mornings and afternoons. Help school buses out and always yield right of way to buses at all times. Make sure that you stop when their stop sign is deployed. Also, always stay vigilant for children waiting on the curb for their bus when driving around school zones.

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