Driver questions St. Gabriel Police ticketing drivers in school zone

ST. GABRIEL, LA (WAFB) - Maybe you've seen the signs with flashing lights that say school zone, 25 miles an hour when flashing. What if the lights are not on, but school is in? What do you do? One man thought he had the right answer, but ended up with a fine.

"If the sign says when flashing, that's what I go by," said Ryan Rice.

The school sign posted near East Iberville Elementary, on Highway 75 in St. Gabriel reads: Speed Limit 25 When Flashing. No doubt hundreds of cars have passed through the school zone every day. But Tuesday was Rice's first time taking road to work.

"I usually go down Nicholson, but I was trying to avoid the red lights," he said. He says when he passed by the school zone sign today, there were no lights flashing.

"100 yards after the sign, police officer was standing by a tree pulling people over."

Rice ended up with a speeding ticket, for going 50 miles an hour in a 25 mph zone. The normal speed limit on the road is 55. So Rice says he was actually going under the speed limit. His question, if the light to this sign wasn't flashing why did he and several other people get pulled over.

"Basically everybody who came down the street were getting pulled over. Getting tickets for speeding in school zone," Rice said. "I know where I'm from schools are out. So unless that light is flashing, how do you know that the school zone is active?"

One St. Gabriel officer told us the lights were working. The light that faces the northbound traffic was flashing. But for drivers, like Rice who were headed southbound on 75, they saw no flashing light.

Rice says he called the police department to ask a supervisor is they were aware the light was not flashing.

"They told me that light falls under the state's responsibility, not theirs," Rice said he was told.

St. Gabriel Police Chief Kevin Ambeau says his officers were doing their job. Their responsibility is to catch speeders. He says the flashing lights are a caution tool to warn drivers they are entering a school zone, but drivers should obey the posted times. In this case the sign shows school zones are in effect from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Rice's ticket was written at 8:04 a.m.

Rice says he doesn't believe he was speeding. He says if the sign says the speed limit is 25 when flashing and the lights are not on, any driver would do the same. He says if the police department has not made the state aware that the light is not functioning, they could be using the area as a speed trap.

Chief Ambeau gave 9News a copy of the speed zone law. The last sentence reads: This regulatory speed limit is in effect for specified times or when supplemental yellow lights are flashing.

"Unless you're told otherwise or you're from here and you know schools in, let me slow down - what are you supposed to do?"

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