School zone speed cameras arrive in Georgia due to recent law

Automated speed cameras like these would enforce school zone speed limits under an ordinance being considered by Alpharetta. AJC FILE

Automated speed cameras like these would enforce school zone speed limits under an ordinance being considered by Alpharetta. AJC FILE

Drivers rushing through some Gwinnett County school zones without slowing down could soon find a speeding ticket in the mail.

Two Gwinnett cities, Duluth and Lilburn, have approved new speed cameras in school zones, and more metro cities are considering the same system.

While speeding camera technology has been around for years, a new state law was passed in 2018 to regulate drivers in school zones and near school buses. Part of that law provided for a new way of ticketing drivers: speed cameras. The cameras flag drivers going at least 10 mph over the school zone speed limit and send them a ticket with police approval.

One camera program being offered by a private provider is a cheap way for local police and deputies to catch speeders near schools without devoting manpower to daily patrols. Duluth and Lilburn approved partnerships with traffic camera company RedSpeed in the past month. Gwinnett County and Lawrenceville police departments also are considering the technology, but neither has made a final decision, spokespeople for the city and county said.

Camera company RedSpeed USA, based in Illinois, installs and operates the cameras for free. They monitor speed and read license plates of cars going through the school zones. RedSpeed also helps local police departments issue the tickets and shares the revenue with them.

Roswell has also shown interest in RedSpeed . After hearing a presentation from Greg Parks, the company’s senior vice president of business development and government relations, Roswell's community development and transportation committee on Wednesday voted to move forward and discuss signing a contract with the company during an August meeting of the full city council.

Around Georgia, RedSpeed has partnered with 20 cities and counties on the school zone cameras. In addition to Gwinnett’s two cities, its other metro-area partners are Henry County, Jonesboro and Conyers.

The partnerships between cities and RedSpeed were made possible by House Bill 978, passed in 2018. The law allows speed cameras to be used for traffic enforcement in school zones, and stipulates drivers must be recorded on camera going at least 10 mph over the speed limit, and that fines be from $75 to $125.

Drivers caught by the cameras usually will pay less and face a lesser penalty than if a police officer pulled them over. Officers can use his or her discretion to pull over someone going even one mile per hour over the posted limit. Tickets given by officers also typically come with points on a driver’s license, which the camera tickets do not.

The legislation opened the door for RedSpeed to operate in Georgia, Parks told the AJC. Since 2018, the company has added 20 clients in Georgia, with Duluth and Lilburn among their most recent customers.

The zero-dollar price tag is an attractive selling point for cities, Parks said. Instead of charging for the cameras, installation and monitoring, RedSpeed gets all of its revenue from a 35% cut of every fine from a ticket given through a camera. The remaining 65% of the money is earmarked by each city or county for public safety improvements in accordance with HB 978, Parks said.

In Lilburn, that could go not only to improving the police department’s vehicles and equipment, but also to the public works department, city manager Bill Johnsa said.

In order to get the cameras up and working, the company and the city it’s working with must conduct traffic studies of the school zones where they want to use the cameras. The findings are submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation, which issues a permit for the cameras if it agrees there’s a need for them.

In Duluth and Lilburn, officials were shocked at the level of speeding in some school zones. School zone speed limits are typically between 25 and 35 mph twice a day while students and buses are arriving or leaving. More than 8,000 people were clocked going at least 10 mph over the speed limit in Duluth school zone in a one-day traffic study, according to the Duluth Police Department.

More than 1,400 “super speeders” going 15 mph or more over the speed limit were recorded in a 10-hour period at two Lilburn schools.

Gwinnett County Public Schools must also sign off on the cameras.

Duluth and Lilburn have both targeted schools with high pedestrian traffic for camera usage. Duluth Middle School, Coleman Middle School, Mason Elementary School, Chattahoochee Elementary School, Trickum Middle School and Arcado Elementary School are all expected to have new cameras up and running by early in the new school year.

“Our goal is to make our school zones safer, especially at the schools with a high concentration of pedestrians,” Johnsa said.




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