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When do school zone limits apply where you live?

3 minute read

Motor vehicle accident

School zones are part of Australian life. They were introduced to keep students safe when playing near their school or travelling to and from their school. 

But despite being introduced across Australia, motorists are often unsure when school zone times apply.  And it can be challenging because every state has their own rules. Here we talk you through what the school zone speeding statistics are, when they apply and how you can stay safe around them. 

School zone speeding statistics 

New research from Suncorp found that almost a third of Australian drivers admitted to knowingly speeding in a school zone. And while it might seem that driving a few kilometres over the limit in a school zone is really no big deal, and unlikely to result in harm, think again. You just have to consider how long it takes to stop at increasing speeds. 

For example, at 40km/h, the average family car travelling on a dry road will need to brake for nine meters before stopping – this is a reaction time of 17 meters. That means it takes a full 26 metres to stop your car.  

At 50km/h, it will take 21 metres to react, and another 14 meters to brake, equalling 35 metres to a full stop. At 60km/h, those numbers increase to 25 metres to react and 20 metres to brake, which means 45 metres before you can come to a full stop.  

These numbers also assume that you're able to react immediately to your surroundings, which is rarely the case. In fact, government research shows the average driver takes 1.5 seconds to respond to the movements of other road users and pedestrians – a potentially deadly delay. 

As most of us probably know children aren’t usually very safety conscious or road aware. They can be distracted by their friends, the games their playing and busy, noisy surroundings. They can even unpredictably walk or run out into traffic, and as a road user you need to be aware that this could happen. Our most important goal – always – is to keep our children safe  

When do school zone speed limits apply? 

Reduced speed limits apply during school zone times. This is typically whenever a school within the zone is in session. However, every state has set their own school zone times when speed limits will apply.  

If you are unsure whether a school zone is in effect, newer school zone signs feature helpful flashing lights. If you still aren’t sure whether a school zone is in effect, slow down to the sign posted speed. No matter what state you're driving in, you can be fined and potentially issued demerit points for speeding in a school zone.  

School zone times 

There are no standardised school zone times in Australia — the times vary depending on the state, the school and the local council. In most cases the speed limit will be 40km/h. But in some cases, these may differ. The signage in the area will display the times the school zone is in effect and the speed limits applicable. 

  • Queensland school zone times. Most school zones in Queensland are in effect between 7 and 9am and 2 and 4pm. However, some schools will operate outside of standard times. Flashing lights will indicate the limits and times they apply. 

  • New South Wales school zone times. Most school zones in NSW operate between 8 and 9.30am and 2.30 and 4pm. There are a few non-standard school zone times, as well, which you can identify by red or orange school zone signs. There are also some areas that have a 30km/h speed limit. 

  • Australian Capital Territory school zone times. In the ACT, school zone speed limits apply between 8am and 4pm on weekdays. 

  • Victoria school zone times. In Victoria, school zones operate between 8 and 9.30am and 2.30 and 4pm on weekdays during school terms, excluding public holidays. 

  • South Australia school zone times. In SA, unlike in other states and territories, school zone limits apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. And the speed is limited to 25km/h.  

  • Tasmania school zone times. School zone limits apply the moment you pass a school zone sign on weekdays during school terms, excluding public holidays. 

  • Western Australia school zone times. In Western Australia, school zones are generally in effect on school days between 7am and 8.30 or 9am and 2pm and 3.30 or 4pm. 

  • Northern Territory school zone times. In the Northern Territory, school zones are generally in effect between 7am and 5pm on school days. 

Some schools with a split campus may have a school zone in effect the entire school day — again, the sign should reflect this. 

Are school zones in effect during school holidays? 

On weekends, public holidays and school holidays, school zone limits generally do not apply. One notable exception is in South Australia where they are in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

This can be confusing when private or independent schools often run to different term dates than state schools. Sometimes several schools will share the same zone, all with different holiday dates. Provided at least one school is open, the school zone will remain in effect. 

It’s important you’re aware of when school zones start to be in effect. Police are unlikely to accept ignorance of school holiday dates as an excuse. 

School zone safety tips 

When you next drive through a school zone or are dropping-off or picking-up your children, keep the following in mind: 

  • Take care, slow down and look out for unpredictable pedestrians and children. 

  • Reduce your speed to or below the signed speed limit. 

  • Avoid distractions from the occupants of your car, mobile phones or the pressure you may feel if you’re running late. 

  • Say goodbye to your children on the school side of the road. If they need to cross, walk them over to the gate. 

  • Similarly, try to meet your children at the gate after school and walk them back to the car rather than calling out to them from across the road. 

  • If traffic is making it difficult to find a park or keep a safe distance from crossings, try getting out of your car with your children a few streets away and walking in together. This could save you time and be worth the effort to keep your children safe. 

Shine Lawyers – talk to the experts

If something’s happened to you or someone you love and you need legal advice, Shine Lawyers offers obligation-free consultations to discuss your legal rights.

Get in touch today with one of our dedicated motor vehicle accident lawyers. We’re here and ready to help you protect what matters. 

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