Henry County adding speed-detection cameras to school zones

Henry County plans to add speed-detection cameras in zones around five schools. AJC FILE PHOTO

Henry County plans to add speed-detection cameras in zones around five schools. AJC FILE PHOTO

Speed-detection cameras will soon be installed around schools in Henry County in what police say is an effort to get drivers to slow down.

The Henry County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a county police department request to contract with RedSpeed Ga., a subsidiary of Illinois-based RedSpeed USA, to provide cameras around five schools: Stockbridge Elementary, Hampton Elementary Charter, Union Grove Elementary, Luella Middle and Ola High.

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A traffic study RedSpeed conducted at the request of Henry police found that more than 3,200 motorists drove 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in one day of monitoring around the five schools. Henry police said at least 75 accidents were reported around the schools in 2018.

“The safety of the student is first and foremost in our minds,” Henry police Major Vance Rosen told the commission.

RedSpeed has pushed for adoption of the cameras in several south metro and South Georgia cities in recent months, including Morrow, Jonesboro and Milledgeville, as well as Clayton County. Georgia legislators approved the use of speed-detection cameras in school zones in 2018 after the passage of House Bill 978.

Supporters of traffic cameras such as speed detectors and red-light monitors call them life-saving and say making people aware they are being monitored changes habits. Critics, however, argue there is no evidence cameras encourage motorists to slow down and say they’re simply a money grab by municipalities.

Under Henry’s ordinance, RedSpeed will keep 35 percent of the revenue from tickets while Henry will get 65 percent (The county can only use the money for public safety measures, Rosen said). A ticket will cost $75 on a first violation and $125 for any subsequent speeding offenses in the school zone.

Commissioner Vivian Thomas said Henry Police need to educate students about the ordinance before it takes effect. Her guess is that many of the motorists who were speeding during the RedSpeed traffic study were high schoolers.

“I’m concerned we may be punishing kids a little bit harsh before they actually know what’s happening,” she said. “A lot of parents out here may very well be surprised to see their students bring home these tickets.”