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For Children’s Sake, Drive Slowly


As I drove past Capshaw Elementary School, I glanced at the clock in my van:  2:14.  It wasn’t near 3:00, school dismissal time, so I wasn’t concerned about the lower speed limit that is enforced immediately before and the end of school days.

Children played on the playground and teachers gathered near a wooden bench.  As a former teacher, I have happy memories of those teacher conversations; recess is one of the few times during a school day that teachers can visit.  Four teachers stood in a circle, facing different directions to see the whole playground and monitor students, to be sure children were safe.  I recognized two friends.

            A city police car was parked in a street parking place, ready, I thought, for school dismissal. During my teacher days, I appreciated when police officers were present at the times when students were dropped off and picked up.  Just seeing a police car reminded drivers to slow down.  I waved to the policeman as I drove past.

            He waved back and turned on the blue lights on top of his car. I slowed for him to pass me, but he didn’t.  His car was on my bumper. 

            As I stopped in a parking place off the road, I wondered if there was something wrong with my van.  The policeman greeted me kindly, “Good afternoon, Ma’am. May I see your driver’s license?” 

            “Sure,” I said and handed it to him. “I hope your day is going well.”  He nodded and, holding my license, walked to his car.    

            I was surprised by his next words: “Mrs. Ray, you were going 28 in a school zone.  The posted limit is 15 MPH.”

            And then my experience as a teacher hit me.  Kindergarten students are dismissed at 2:00 p.m. so the school speed limit is enforced beginning at 1:45 p.m. My words rushed out.  “I’m so sorry.  I looked at my clock and because it wasn’t near 3:00, I didn’t think about the speed limit being lower now.  It’s because kindergarten students get out at 2:00, isn’t it?”

            The policemen repeated the posted speed limit, noted on a sign by a flashing yellow light, and he didn’t know about kindergarten students.  He looked stern.

             I knew exactly where that light was and I didn’t see it that day because I’d turned onto the street a half block after it. I wanted to whine, but I knew that wouldn’t help.  I said. “You know what makes this really embarrassing?  I taught at this school for more than twenty years.  I should’ve remembered.  I drive past here almost every day.  I’m so sorry I was going too fast and promise to be more careful.”

            I got no pity for being a teacher, but maybe it was my repeated regrets and promise that warranted only a verbal warning.  “Ma’am, you do that.  Be careful and slow down.”   

             Let my experience be you warning:  obey the speed limit and drive carefully. Especially near schools.