School Zones

As we approach the school Easter Holidays, I thought this would be a good time to recap the requirements of driving through a school zone.

The information in this article is relevant only to South Australia. Other states have different laws and different speed limits so visit your own state’s legislation website to view the rules pertaining to you if you live elsewhere than South Australia.



Vic: Does not have any specific zone legislation as per the Australian Road Rules, however the school zone speed limit signs are imaged under rule 316(4)$FILE/09-94sr003.pdf#page391







The speed limit in a school zone, and the definition of a school zone, is covered by rule 23 of the Australian Road Rules.

23—Speed limit in a school zone

(1) The speed limit applying to a driver for any length of road in a school zone is the number of kilometres per hour indicated by the number on the school zone sign on a road, or the road, into the zone.

Note 1—

            Length of road is defined in the dictionary.

Note 2—

A school zone sign may indicate that it applies only at certain times, on certain days or in certain circumstances—see rules 317 and 318.

Note 3—

This subrule applies to road-related areas in the school zone—see rule 11(2).

(2) A school zone is—

(a)  if there is a school zone sign and an end school zone sign, or a speed limit sign with a different number on the sign, on a road and there is no intersection on the length of road between the signs—that length of road; or

(b)  if there is a school zone sign on a road that ends in a dead end and there is no intersection, nor a sign mentioned in paragraph (a), on the length of road beginning at the sign and ending at the dead end—that length of road; or

(c)  in any other case—the network of roads in an area with—

(i)  a school zone sign on each road into the area, indicating the same number; and

(ii)  an end school zone sign, or a speed limit sign indicating a different number, on each road out of the


Intersection is defined in the dictionary.

(3) In subrule (2)(c)(i) and (ii)—

road does not include a road-related area.


South Australia’s School Zones:

In South Australia there are two different types of school zone;

  • one which is operative 24 hours a day, seven days a week whenever a child is in the zone
  • one which is operative only when warning lights are flashing


The most common school zone in SA is the one that is signed “When Children Present”.

School zone 1This is indicated by the sign shown in the image to the left. The orange pentagonal logo depicting two children placed above the sign indicates from a distance that the zone you are approaching is a “when children present” zone. These zones operate 24/7 whenever a child is present in that zone, in other words between the sign depicted and the end of school zone sign.

For the purposes of the school zone, a child is defined as anyone from birth to the age of 18 – this includes a baby in a pram – or a student (in reality anyone) of any age wearing a school uniform.

I say ‘in reality’ because you will not know when driving through the zone if that person is a student or is simply wearing fancy dress. If you are prosecuted for exceeding the speed limit in a school zone, the onus is on you to prove that there was no child in the zone at the time.

This is all included under rule 7 of the Road Traffic (Road Rules—Ancillary and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2014.

7—Special provisions relating to school zones

(1)   For the purposes of rule 23 (Speed limit in a school zone), if the words “WHEN CHILDREN PRESENT” are displayed on or with a school zone sign, the words are to be taken to mean that the speed limit displayed on the sign applies when a child is present in the school zone.

(2)   In proceedings for an offence against rule 20 (Obeying the speed limit) relating to a school zone, if it is proved that a person was present in the school zone area and evidence is given that the person appeared to the witness to be a child, it will be presumed that person was a child in the absence of proof to the contrary.

(3)   In this regulation—

child means a person under the age of 18 years, and includes a student of any age in school uniform.



child crossingThe second type of school zone in SA is one that is only active when sets of twoend school zone yellow lights are flashing. When the lights are flashing the speed limit between the start and end signs is 25km/hr, whether there are children present in the zone or not. These lights are activated by use of a switch on or near one the supporting poles.



School Busses:

Also worth mentioning in this article is the issue of school busses. When a school bus is stopped to pick up or drop off children, you must pass it at a speed no greater than 25km/hr.

This is covered by Section 82 of the Road Traffic Act 1961:

82—Speed limit while passing school bus

(1)   A person must not drive a vehicle at a greater speed than 25 kilometres per hour while passing a school bus that has stopped on a road apparently for the purpose of permitting children to board or alight.

(2)   In this section—

school bus means a bus that displays the warning signs and devices required by the vehicle standards for busses used mainly for carrying children.