School Speed Zone Cameras Net Big Returns For Seattle

Jun 11, 2013

Credit drewesque / Flickr

Seattle drivers: Get ready to tap the brakes around more school zones. The city plans to install speed cameras at five more schools after early results indicate that the enforcement devices – and resulting $189 traffic tickets – are motivating drivers to slow down.

In December, the city rolled out the enforcement cameras at four schools. In those school zones, the cameras snap a photo of any vehicles that exceed the 20-mile-per-hour limit. Then the driver later gets a citation in the mail.

The four camera installations have generated more than 30,400 speeding tickets so far and much more money than anticipated. The city initially estimated the citations would add just $800,000 in extra revenue this year. Now, city officials have adjusted the projection upward to more than $5 million for 2013.

“These speed readers are getting cars in both directions and it’s happening lightning fast,” said Seattle Police Captain Mike Nolan during a press conference Tuesday at Nathan Eckstein Middle School in North Seattle. “The bottom line is keeping our kids safe, and this program will do exactly that.”

Notably, the number of daily speeding citations in the four school zones has declined 16 percent since the cameras launched.  That’s good news, said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “We would like them to go down further, obviously,” he said. “That’s the point of the cameras.”

McGinn noted the 16 percent reduction indicates that drivers are getting the message and slowing down. Still, McGinn admits it can be tough to measure whether the cameras prevent accidents in school zones. “It’s hard to pinpoint, ‘Did this camera save this life?'" he said.

Yet, McGinn described a recent accident near Broadview-Thompson K-8 School where the cameras are already installed. “This young girl was struck by a car, and she’s bumped and bruised and scraped up and it’s as scary as can be for her,” he said. “If that driver had been going faster, it would be a different story.”

To determine where the cameras should go next, the city looked at speeding problems around 50 public schools. The five schools proposed for the next installation of cameras are Bailey Gatzert Elementary, Dearborn Park Elementary, Nathan Eckstein Middle School, Roxhill Elementary and Holy Family Parish School.

The city aims to add cameras at those schools in 2014, pending the city council’s approval of the funding.