The speed limit in school zones is 15 mph unless otherwise posted. A typical violation carries a fine of as much as $50. However, a more serious violation could result in a charge of reckless endangerment, which could result in up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Source: Chattanooga Police Department, General Sessions Judge Bob Moon
• Children's behavior is unpredictable. Always exercise caution, especially in areas where children naturally congregate - like schools.
• Pedestrians always have the right of way.
• In the absence of traffic signals, drivers must always slow down or stop for pedestrians in marked and unmarked crosswalks.
• At stop signs and when a school crossing guard is displaying an official stop sign or flag, drivers must come to a complete stop.
• Drivers must stop when approaching a school bus, church bus, or day care bus that is stopped to pick up or let off children. The driver must remain stopped until the bus' stop sign is retracted and red warning lights are turned off.
For Kids and Parents
First and foremost, set a good example by always following the traffic safety rules yourself. Children learn by example.
• Always look both ways before crossing the street.
• Cross in the crosswalks at the corner, not in the middle of the block. Never cross from between parked cars. Never cross an intersection diagonally.
• Cross the street with the crossing guard whenever possible.
• Children should look to see that drivers are aware of them. Make eye contact with the driver.
• Be careful in parking lots. Look out for the cars as they may not be able to see you. Never walk or run in front of cars.
• When walking on sidewalks, be aware of driveways and alleys from which cars may emerge.
Assistant Principal Michele Reeves has been at East Brainerd Elementary School for five years, and she said she has probably received more questions about traffic than anything else.
"It gets congested," said Reeves.
East Brainerd Elementary sits in one of the heaviest traffic school zones in the county, said Ben Coulter, Hamilton County Schools transportation supervisor. East Ridge Elementary, East Hamilton Middle/High, Soddy-Daisy High and McConnell Elementary schools also are in high-traffic areas, Coulter said.
With public schools back in session, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga resuming classes Aug. 22, the highways and surface streets in and around Chattanooga are being flooded with thousands of students as well as additional cars and school buses.
That calls for extra vigilance from drivers and pedestrians alike, especially in high-traffic school zones such as East Brainerd, officials said.
Traffic near East Brainerd Elementary is awful for two reasons. It's near the intersection of East Brainerd and Gunbarrel roads, two main thoroughfares even without the school traffic. And then there's the design of the school parking area. It was built in 1912 (cq) without provision for a bus lane, car lane or ample parking.
Attendance at East Brainerd also is increasing. The school had about 450 students in 2005. Enrollment this year is expected to be about 700, said Reeves.
That adds up to long waits for motorists and greater potential for accidents.
Traffic isn't as bad in Chattanooga's urban core because most inner-city schools have fewer students and more sidewalks. And because of the socioeconomic differences, more students walk or ride the school bus instead of riding in cars, Coulter said.
About 25 vehicular accidents are recorded annually in Hamilton County school zones. Exclude minor accidents, such as a bus getting its mirror knocked off on a tight road, and the number of accidents decreases to about 12 a year. Most of those are fender benders. School bus drivers are at fault for about 10 percent of those accidents, Coulter said.
"That's not bad when we drive over 3 million miles a year," he said.
There was a fatal accident involving a student near a school zone several years ago. Coulter said the accident predates him, but he knows that it occurred in East Ridge and it happened when a child crossed the road at an undesignated place to catch the bus and got hit, Coulter said.
However, a school bus is still the safest mode of transportation, he said. Nationwide there will be five or six deaths a year involving a school bus.
"School buses are big. They're safe," said Coulter. "They sit high so even if you do get in a wreck with a car the hit is low. But the biggest thing is everybody knows what's in the yellow school bus and people take extra precautions."