Signs change outside Potter Elementary to reflect accurate speed zones

A few days before the start of the school year, city officials replaced the speed limit signs that had the wrong times for school zones, making it impossible for police officers to ticket offenders.
Published August 14

TAMPA — Elton McDaniels, 68, helped students cross the street on the first day back at Potter Elementary School, the same school he attended years earlier and where he’s been a crossing guard for the last 10 years.

This year, at least the signs were right, but he still feared for the safety of students as cars whizzed by. He’d been to a city council meeting to express his concerns, sent in videos of traffic and stood with a police officer who had come out with his speed detector to show him the problems.

A few days before the start of the school year, city officials replaced the speed limit signs that had the wrong times for school zones, making it impossible for police officers to ticket offenders.

In April, WFTS-Ch. 28 reported that the signs outside Potter said school zone times were from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., when actual school zone times were from 7:10 a.m. to 7:55 a.m and 1:40 p.m to 2:25 p.m. City officials acknowledged they were aware of the issue.

When the Times inquired Thursday, Jean Duncan, director of transportation and stormwater services, confirmed the signs still needed to be changed and a work order to change them ASAP had been placed. The signs were correct Monday morning.

Duncan said city officials annually inspect signs looking at their placement and condition and to see if they’re in need of modification.

“Unfortunately, there is often the human error that occurs with an incorrect sign installation,” she said. “We believe that these are infrequent, and we appreciate when our citizens bring these items to our attention.”

Tampa Police Department spokesman Steve Hegarty said late in the school year last year, the police department did a traffic control detail and gave out warnings to offenders because the signs didn’t have the accurate times. He isn't aware of the situation elsewhere, but doesn't doubt it could be.

"When the school district changes times ... that definitely has repercussions for us and traffic control folks," he said.

Tanya Arja, spokeswoman for the school district, said she was not aware of other similar situations.

McDaniels said he thinks the city can do more to protect kids at Potter. He hopes to see a flashing light on the school zone signs.

“They don’t know there’s a school here until by the time you get close by,” he said. “Kids can’t judge the speed of a car, they’ll step right in front of it.”

Aliyah Anderson, who dropped off two fifth graders, a third grader and second grader Monday morning, said she too has had concerns about safety.

“This is a high traffic area,” she said. “Cars will go straight through the red sometimes.”

Contact Divya Kumar at dkumar@tampabay.com. Follow @divyadivyadivya.

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