Washington Police Traffic Cameras to Start Focusing on School Zones

June 3, 2008

Seattle police are about to turn the camera lens on drivers who speed in school zones.

Two years ago, the city began using automatic cameras to catch motorists running red lights. The photos — plus tickets carrying hefty fines — are mailed to the owners of the offending vehicles.

Now, in a 10-month pilot project beginning this summer, police plan to equip a van with radar, cameras and other gear, and park it in school zones to catch people speeding and breaking other traffic laws.

Warnings will be mailed to drivers caught this summer. Tickets will be issued after school starts in the fall. A ticket for driving faster than the 20 mph limit in a school zone is $189.

“There’s a real concern about pedestrian safety in the city, especially in regards to young people at schools,” said Mike Quinn, a senior planner with the police department. “Our purpose is to reduce speeds in those zones when children are present.”

Signs will be posted about a block from where the van is parked to warn drivers, as required by law.

Traffic Officer Dean Shirey said the van will help capture more speeders because the cameras are always rolling.

Currently, when Shirey nabs a driver in a school zone, other traffic scofflaws get away while he’s tied up writing a ticket.

“It’s more efficient, because an officer in the van is going to capture every violator,” Shirey told The Seattle Times.

As with the red-light runners, wayward drivers caught on camera in school zones will receive a ticket in the mail. Video of the offense will be available on the Internet.

“They can go to the Web site and see exactly what we, as the screening officer, see,” Shirey said.

The school-zone program will be modeled on one in the Tacoma suburb of Lakewood.

“It’s been a success in bringing down the number of accidents and injuries in school zones,” Lakewood police Lt. Dave Guttu said.

The Wisconsin-based National Motorists Association opposes photo enforcement by police.

“Obviously, you are presumed guilty. Everyone should have a chance to confront their accuser,” spokeswoman Bonnie Sesolak said.

Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

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