Parents put physics to the test, reminding drivers to slow down in school zones

Parents put physics to the test, reminding drivers to slow down in school zones

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – Summer has come to an end and kids get back-to-school on Tuesday, meaning school zone speed limits go back into effect. Action News put physics to the test to show the importance of slowing down.

"It was the worst feeling because I was trying to stop the car and I couldn't," Kristie Burnett said during our driving test.

"Terrifying, and it was a cone,” added Jessica Graff. “I cannot imagine what it would be like if it was a child."

Police said not being able to stop in time if a child darts into the street, is the reality of driving the normal 30 mph speed limit in a school zone.

"One of the biggest things people ask us is, why do we have to slow down?” Traffic Officer Jeffrey Cobb said. “And the big thing is, is how quick you can stop."

Cobb said slowing down to 20 mph makes a dramatic difference in stopping distance.

It takes the average person 1.5 seconds to think, react, and apply the brakes.

While going 20 mph, during that 1.5 seconds it takes you to think you’ll travel 44 ft., and another 19 ft. to brake—totaling 63 ft. traveled while skidding to a stop.

Going 30 mph that total distance increases to 109 ft. to stop.

"Unfortunately, 30 mph isn't slow enough because it's a 40-ft. increase," Cobb explained.

To see the realistic stopping difference 10 mph makes we asked three people to take part in a driving test.

First, we measured the proper stopping distance for 20 mph, and then marked it off. Then we asked them to drive both 20 mph and 30 mph, to see if they can stop in time.

At 20 mph, you can see in the video how the volunteer drivers had plenty of time and distance before hitting the cone.

However, when increasing their speed by only 10 mph the drivers lost control. They struck the cone every single time.

"I have four kids and this definitely puts a different perspective on slowing down, especially in school zones," Rachel Harrison said.

"To actually test this out with the speed limits and see what a difference it makes, it only further fuels that commitment to driving under that speed zone limit," Burnett added.

Luckily, this was a test, but had it been the real thing, the volunteers said they'd be heartbroken.

"The thought of that brings me to tears because any child, it’s our babies,” Harrison said. “It's not worth being somewhere an extra 10 seconds early."

"It makes you realize that driving distracted and speeding combined could be a deadly combination," Burnett said.

"People I think look at the speed limit as not a big deal a lot of the time, and they think they’ll have enough time to stop, when in reality they won’t and they don’t," Graff added.

So physics and the drivers can attest that 20 mph is plenty.

Police said drivers should be aware if they drive through any school zones on their morning and afternoon commutes. They are asking for drivers to look for flashing lights and urge drivers to slow down and be on the lookout for children walking to school.

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