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City of Seattle

November 28, 3:44 PM click here to comment > 13

Traffic safety cameras in school zones will help keep kids safe

The City of Seattle is implementing a program to help curb dangerous speeding in school zones, reduce collisions and enhance the safety of children and pedestrians.

Captain Richard Belshay speaks to media about traffic cameras

In addition to increasing safety by reducing speeding, this pilot program will also utilize ticket revenue for additional safety improvements near schools such as sidewalks, curb bulbs, and other traffic safety tools. The number of speeding motorists in these school zones has been higher than anticipated and the City is extending the warning period by two weeks before issuing actual citations. To date, there have been 5,927 warning notices issued by Seattle Police Officers. If this current level of speeding continues in these school zones, the City could see between $2-4 million in revenue annually. The City is exploring options to invest this revenue back into these school zones for additional safety improvements. The City would prefer that motorists comply with the posted speed limit in school zones.

The Mayor’s Office is working to support public safety across many departments. As part of the Safe Communities Initiative, many neighborhood residents have pointed out that children should be better protected in and around schools. The mayor is increasing the size of the police force, pushing to expand services for at-risk youth and supporting community centers that work with at-risk youth service providers. Traffic safety cameras in school zones are a part of this broader effort to support youth safety in Seattle.

The installation of the traffic safety cameras is one step in implementing the Road Safety Action Plan, released in August of this year. The plan has six goals that will lead Seattle toward a long-term vision of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries and is the result of the Road Safety Summit convened by Mayor McGinn in 2011. “Fewer people speeding” is the first goal.

“Safety is our top priority, especially in school zones,” said McGinn. “This project will not only reduce speeding, but we’re also able to make our neighborhood streets safer than they were before.”

“This is about safety for kids and their parents in school zones. Motorists need to slow down and obey the posted speed limits. This technology will encourage safer driving habits and prevent collisions,” said Chief John Diaz of the Seattle Police Department.

Beginning on November 1st, school zone speed cameras went “live” in four selected school zones around the city: Broadview-Thompson K-8 School, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, Olympic View Elementary School and Gatewood Elementary School. These schools were chosen because analysis of documented speeding problems showed that these schools would receive the greatest speed reduction and safety benefit from automated speed enforcement. Speeding continued to be a concern despite the existence of flashing beacons previously installed by the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Beginning on December 10, actual citations will be mailed to motorists who disregard the speed limit in the monitored school zones. The fine amount will be a fixed $189.00, the same cost as a ticket that would otherwise be issued by an officer.

The cameras will only issue tickets when the school zone yellow beacons are flashing, which typically occurs for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon when children are coming or going to school.

Photo by: Rebecca Deehr

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Posted by: April Thomas


Pingback from The Reader – Keeping kids safe in school zones | Seattle, WA 98122
Time November 29, 2012 at 8:59 pm

[...] safety cameras in school zones will help keep kids safe The City of Seattle is implementing a program to help curb dangerous speeding in school zones, reduce collisions and enhance the safety of [...]

Comment from Mitzi Jamerson
Time November 29, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Thank you so much. I could not be happier about this happening with Greenwood Elementary School. I live directly across the street on the corner of 80th and 3rd, as well as have a child who goes there. I cannot tell you how many close calls we have had while trying to cross the street. What is very frustrating to me is that the only crossing guard in down on the corner of 81st and 3rd. We so desperately need a crossing guard on the main corner.

Please, please hear me when I say that the location of the school zone signs were very poorly thought out. Someone really needs to come and evaluate how ineffective a few of them are. Example: On 3rd Ave heading North, the flashing sign is sitting right beside the school, after the intersection of 80th and 3rd. The motorists are already through the intersection before they can really see the sign. The sign on east bound 3rd is also too close to the school. Please have someone look into this. It seriously needs to be fixed!

Comment from bruce parker
Time November 30, 2012 at 5:51 am

The crosswalk located in front of the Phinney Neighborhood center on Phinney Ave N needs similar consideration. The issue is drivers running the red crosswalk light. The PNA serves many preschools as well as seniors.

Comment from Heather Anderson
Time November 30, 2012 at 9:10 am

As the Volunteer Coordinator for Queen Anne Elementary for the past 2 1/2 years, in which capacity I have spent many hours scheduling crossing guards – and standing guard myself – for the 4th Avenue & Boston Street intersection, I thank you for working to improve traffic safety near Seattle schools. There is much more to be done!

At our school the SDOT installed timed flashing “school zone” lights 1 block east and west of this intersection during the 2011-12 school year. (Thank you again!) We crossing guards did see a general decrease in automobile speeds. However, I know first hand that many drivers still speed in this school zone. This is partly due to drivers *increasing* speeds traveling east on Boston to get up the rise that crests at 4th Avenue.

What is even more concerning is the fact that there is a great deal of turning traffic at this intersection because 4th Ave north of Boston is the most direct access to Highway 99 from the northeast corner of QA. Unfortunately, 4th Ave is rated as a residential street and Boston is rated as an arterial. With the actual usage conflicting with ratings & signage, there have been *many* near accidents here. Our volunteer crossing guards have related many incidents when they were concerned for their own safety.

The most logical solution would be to make this intersection a 4-way stop, either timed to match the school zone flashers, pedestrian-initiated (push button) or full-time.

Thank you,
A Concerned QAE Parent

Comment from jordan rehm
Time November 30, 2012 at 9:48 am

This is a first small step. I live on a street, NW 67 St. in Seattle that runs between Ballard High School and Salmon Bay Elementary. Many students for both schools utilize our street to go and leave school. Many parents drop their children off on our street as well. There is a great number of speeding cars going up and down our street. Many are the PARENTS taking their children to school, speeding with disregard to the other children and jeopardizing these kids safety. We have asked over and over for speed reducing methods to be installed all to no avail. We did get a traffic circle, too small for the intersection and does little to impede speeding.
Also, their is continuous DRUG DEALING going on at the corner that sits directly between these two schools.
These are real problems in this area and I hope this program will address them in our neighborhood

Comment from jo blough
Time November 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

This is bunk. Where are all of these “dangerous speeders”. Yes I have kids and am at the school many times during the week. I have been given many tickets by accidentally letting my speedometer drift up to 27 or 28. It is the most irritating thing. In fact it is more dangerous to stare at the speedometer than the road. Can we just relax for C’s sake. There is no problem with schoolzone speeding.

Pingback from Bicycles key for walkable and accessible American streetscape; solutions to 5 common excuses to not ride to work; a new light to prevent being caught in a blind spot; and more « Cascade Bike Blog – Cascade Bicycle Club – Seattle, Washing
Time December 5, 2012 at 9:02 am

[...] Traffic safety cameras in Seattle school zones to help keep kids safe. The City of Seattle is implementing a program to help curb dangerous speeding in school zones, reduce collisions and enhance the safety of [...]

Comment from Ted
Time January 1, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Yeah, those cameras are great until the police cant read the license plate and send out the ticket to whatever they think is closest. Now i lose a days pay fighting my ticket because of lazy police work, thanks alot

Comment from Ted
Time January 1, 2013 at 10:58 pm

One more thing, try to call them and get them to look at it again, you might as well try to part the red sea

Comment from Bruce
Time February 21, 2013 at 12:11 am

This is more about raising money than it is about school safety. What a load of crap. How much of this money is going to the private company that runs the system? We recently got a ticket on 23rd, a major arterial for going 26 miles per hour. This is an incredibly expensive ticket for going 6 miles over a very, very low speed. I see parents and kids exhibiting dangerous behavior all of the time by playing next to the street, crossing in the middle of the block and in general not teaching their children how to walk next to traffic. How about ticketing some of these people. Believe me, this will be brought up by me in the next election cycle. What a terrible idea.

Comment from Kellie
Time March 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

How do you nominate additional school? Both Salmon Bay and Eckstein desperately need these cameras.

The salmon bay crossing guard was hit by a speeding car.

Comment from Patrice Bloch
Time April 11, 2013 at 10:51 am

BULL. It’s for fundraising, not safety. The cameras snap photos into the early evening, 5PM to be exact, long after school hours, with no children or pedestrians present. They’ll just squeeze funding out of us by whatever dirty mean necessary. Assholes.

Comment from Steve B
Time July 3, 2013 at 10:14 pm

The way these cameras are implemented is a gross abuse of our rights. The cameras take data about you and find you guilty of a crime. You have to fight to prove you’re innocent.

Effectively, the way the policies work prevents citizens from challenging an infraction. The cost of fighting them is a day lost from work; parking downtown; and the uphill battle of being assumed guilty. For a $150 infraction, the city–and the red-light camera company in Arizona, Traffic Solutions (ATS,), know that most people can’t afford to even challenge the infraction.

And, the odds are that if they do, they will lose. Because there was no human at the scene that made the assessment that a ‘crime’ was committed, there is only the testimony of the accused. No police officer shows up to present an eyewitness account of the ‘crime.’ So, it’s you versus data which always shows you committed the infraction. But nothing is black and white–there is no crime, no story, no accusation, no situation that doesn’t warrant examining before serving justice. My own experience, and the reality of being a human, shows that justice only can be served after acknowledging this grey area.

My own experience was at 40th St and Stone Way. A bicyclist jumped the red light coming downhill–east–through the intersection. I was driving a heavily laden service truck, and slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting the cyclist. I came to rest halfway in the intersection, sitting 45 degrees to my travel lane. At some point while I slowed or sat there, sweating and being glad I didn’t crush the errant cyclist, the light clicked to red, and the camera took a picture of me, and sent me a ticket. After all, I had crossed into the intersection.

I requested a different venue than downtown, so I wouldn’t have to pay $20 to park and take the day off to go to court. Denied. So I paid the ticket. What is the alternative?

The alternative is real police work, with more boots on the ground, making reasoned judgments about the circumstances before issuing citations. Fair judgments, honest policework, a chance to educate and contact the public. Before a citation is issued.

But this costs money. And ATS doesn’t make money when cops do the policework. It’s messy–courts get bogged down with examining the rights and wrongs of things. And the City of Seattle’s $1million revenue stream from these cameras gets interrupted.

The ATS is so good at its business, that it has fought across the country to make it illegal for citizens’ initiatives to ban them. This is a company that puts revenues before all else. Including justice.

Remember, too, that the images these cameras take go into databases which all law-enforcement can subpoena. So if you’re afraid of drones, and the NSA email and phone data spying, consider what any government employee can do with this data. That is, cameras taking pictures of you whereever you drive and wherever you go. This is a small, but significant step. The City of Seattle is now considering allowing data-cam pictures to be used in murder investigations. A good use of the info? Perhaps. But what about all the photos of the innocent people those cameras have taken. It’s an indiscriminate data-collection system rife with abuse.

Whatever social good these cameras do or don’t do, they are being abused. There are better ways to protect your school-age kids–and mine (yes, I have an 8 and a 5-year old, in public schools.) Speeding-zone cameras are not about protecting anyone’s kids. They are about making money for some very greedy and wrongheaded stockholders and their lackeys in city government. Please, please work to remove them.