Because many states choose to at least partially disregard national guidelines* designed to encourage the uniform use of traffic signs throughout the USA, different standards in some areas can increase or decrease safety. Perhaps the most concerning of these variations is found in signs which warn drivers that they are entering a school zone.
Clearly, signs that are very conspicuous are preferable for such a crucial situation, and in this context, those with flashing lights undeniably have an advantage.
The actual message, however, varies from place to place.
Some — the best — state that lower speed limits apply (and therefore that caution is most needed) whenever the lights are flashing.
Some, like the one shown in the adjacent photograph, state that the requirement applies only on schooldays. That’s great unless any of the drivers in the area are from other states or even other countries and are unaware of what are and are not school days, especially in respect of things like summer schools.
The worst signs say only “when children are present,” but that is meaningless if the only children in the area are hidden from view by, say, parked cars or bushes.
There can be little doubt or argument that school-zone road signs throughout the USA should be standardized on lower speed limits and extreme caution being necessary whenever compulsory warning lights are flashing, whatever the hour or the day (so that evening, weekend or recess events may also be catered for). And all school zones should routinely be subjected to rigorous speed and distracted driving enforcement.
Anything less permits unnecessary risk to children’s lives.
*The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices [MUTCD]
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