Atlanta speeders beware: Cameras might soon catch you driving too fast in school zones.
The Atlanta school board and the Atlanta City Council could install speed cameras in hopes of deterring lead-foot drivers from zipping past schools.
Officials believe the cameras would make it safer for students heading to and from school. They’re among several measures under consideration that aim to reduce the risk of injury and even death.
The cameras would capture license plate information from vehicles going more than 10 mph over the speed limit, and the car’s owner would receive a ticket in the mail.
A 2018 state law authorized cameras in school zones. Since then, the Georgia Department of Transportation has granted permits to install cameras outside about 20 schools, including several in Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry counties.
Atlanta school board chairman Jason Esteves said the district would likely start with a pilot program, installing cameras at only some of its 87 schools. Atlanta Public Schools also is looking at other ways to protect students who walk and bike to school. That could mean more crosswalks, sidewalks and enforcement of rules to prevent dog attacks.
“How do we best make our neighborhoods walkable for our students?” he said.
Student deaths have prompted big concerns in recent years. In September, a Douglass High School student crossing Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway died after he was hit by a car; officials said the driver was speeding. In 2016, a Grady High School student was riding her bike when she was struck by a car at 10th Street and Monroe Drive.
Bria Brown, a Grady High senior, described that intersection as “confusing” on a good day and “chaotic” on a bad day.
She started the student-led Grady Pedestrian Safety Coalition to advocate for changes that would make it safer for students to get to and from her high school, located across from Piedmont Park.
Adding traffic cameras is one way to “let people know this is serious and that the community is awakened by the accidents that have happened.
“Drivers have to take it seriously. Although they are in the heart of Midtown this is a school zone,” she said.
And it’s not just a problem at Grady. Bria said her group has heard from worried people around Atlanta who complain the streets are bad and sidewalks are lacking.
The district and city still have to work out many details of the speed-camera program. An APS spokesman said city and school system officials will meet in the coming weeks to coordinate.
The school district must undertake “the bulk of the initiative,” including applying for state permits, said Lance Orchid, chief of staff for Councilwoman Jennifer Ide, who backed a city speed-camera resolution.
The state law calls for those caught on camera speeding in school zones on school days to pay $75 for the first violation and $125 for subsequent violations. The zones encompass the area within 1,000 feet of a school’s property boundary.
Other metro Atlanta districts also are interested in adding cameras. Clayton County Public Schools announced this week that it will launch a pilot program to install them near five schools after a community survey found about half of nearly 3,000 respondents supported the idea.
The City of South Fulton said this week there are plans to install speed cameras near a handful of schools, including Sandtown Middle School. A child was killed in a car crash near the middle school in 2018.
Officials are looking at other ways to make streets safer for students and others in areas outside of school zones.
The state transportation department is reviewing an Oct. 3 study of pedestrians along Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, where Atlanta councilman Dustin Hillis wants the state to install crosswalks. Hillis pointed to a roughly one-mile stretch between James Jackson Parkway NW and Wood Street NW where there are no crosswalks and where the Douglass High School student was hit earlier this school year.
Hillis said he’s spotted lots of students trying to cross the street in the morning before school as well as neighborhood residents walking along that area.
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