There is a hint of fall in the air and we are finally solidly into football season! October is just around the corner, a great time to enjoy a ghost tour in Downtown Lawrenceville or to scare your family around a late-night campfire while telling stories and enjoying s’mores.
Just in time for Halloween, some of you have become School Zone Speed Camera storytellers! We have heard quite a few stories from those who missed all the communications included with recent utility bills and shared through Facebook, Instagram, and the City website, not to mention the newspapers, both hard copy and digital.
If you have one of those stories to tell about the new School Zone Speed Cameras and feel there are problems with the existing system (timing of loading/unloading, reduced speed limits, and speeding citations), I encourage you to do what I have done, and double check speed zones around schools you feel may be problematic and report to our staff so we may investigate any needed corrections.
With that said, here are the TOP 10 SCARY QUESTIONS about the School Zone Speed Camera Program, with all the not-so-scary answers you will need for your stories!
Is the City just trying to fill its coffers with yet another tax?
Capturing revenue is not the purpose of the School Zone Speed Camera Program. Neither income nor expenses for this program were included in the FY2023 city budget. The goal is to protect our children by slowing traffic to the school zone speed limit during posted school bus zone times when incorporating an hour before and an hour after the loading or unloading of school buses. City staff has worked diligently to inform the public of this new program through many platforms. A 30-day grace period was built into the plan implementation, allowing drivers to become aware of the new program, adjust their habits, and slow down. During August, over 9,800 warnings were mailed out! The good news is that we are beginning to see results with an overall slowing of traffic in these areas.
Is this just another overreach of big government?
School zones are set up by multiple government entities – State Legislators, the local Board of Education, and the GDOT. The local municipal Police Department enforces them through legislation passed by the City Council ( in this case). It is incredible to consider how many elected legislative bodies agreed on school zones and reduced speeds during bus loading and unloading times. For detailed information on loading and unloading times for each zone, please visit the link: lville.city/speed-cameras. With this information, you may check each location to ensure the flashing lights are working correctly. Please let us know if you find anything amiss. The bottom line is that every one of us desires safe school zones for our children, requiring drivers to abide by the proper speed limits.
Will citations/tickets be given when the lights are not flashing?
Citations are given one hour before and after school begins and one hour before and after school lets out. Per state law, the lights flash continuously for one hour in the morning and afternoon, indicating you are entering a school zone and that the speed limit has been reduced. The speed limit is only reduced when the lights are flashing and citations will only be given when school is in session. In an effort to keep the early birds and late arrivers safe, citations will be given to those driving 11+ MPH over the regularly posted speed in the mornings and afternoons (within 15-45 minutes of flashing light times). I have personally driven through each school zone to test the cameras during active loading and unloading times and during inactive periods when no buses are loading or unloading. So far, no citations have arrived for me during either of those times. But don’t worry, the cameras do not know if you are an elected official or not, as a few elected officials have received warnings during the testing period! As intended, the warning period has been a bit of an eye-opener, which ultimately will help us all to do our part to make our roadways safer for everyone – especially children.
For example, Benefield Elementary's morning school zone hours are between 7:50am and 9:50am. Photo enforcement begins at 7:50am with a regularly posted speed limit of 45 mph. Anyone driving 56 mph or more, will receive a citation. At 8:05am, the school zone lights begin to flash indicating to drivers that they should reduce their speed to 35 mph. Any driver exceeding 46 mph will receive a citation. The flashing lights turn off and the regularly posted speed limit returns to 45 mph at 9:05am. From 9:05am - 9:50am, anyone driving over 56 mph will receive a citation. Photo enforcement ends until 2:20pm when the afternoon enforcement begins.
There are rarely kids near some bus zones, so why is this needed?
There are specific guidelines that various legislative bodies have created over the years that determine what roads are in a school zone. You can find them at the following link:
Do kids walk to or from school these days?
We see most students walking to and from Central Gwinnett High School. During my time in office, I have been aware of one student being hit by a car and one teacher being hit by a car. That is two people, too many!
So, will I get a citation/ticket if I go one mile over the speed limit?
The answer to this is a big “NO.” We have publicized and communicated that those driving 11 miles or more over the posted speed and only during the published school zonev photo enforcement times will receive a citation. During our 30-day warning period, the average speed over the posted speed limit during loading and unloading was 20 mph. We even had several drivers with rates of 28 to 36 miles over the posted speed during these times. I doubt any Lawrenceville citizens are okay with folks going 20 mph over the speed limit in our school zones.
Will the cameras issue citations/tickets all day long?
Absolutely not. Photo enforcement takes place four hours per scheduled school day in each school zone - two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. Citations will only be given during the two hours for loading and two hours for unloading, which includes one hour before and after school begins and one hour before and after school lets out. Here is the link to these times for each school: lville.city/speed-cameras
What happens if the ticketed car is registered to me, but I allowed someone else to drive it when it was cited?
The citation will be in the name of the person who owns the car. You can appeal the citation if you did not give the person driving permission or if your vehicle was stolen. Here is a link to the appeal process: https://www.violationpayment.net/contest-your-citation.html.
Why can’t police officers monitor school zones and utilize radar detection?
Police departments across the nation have difficulty filling all available officer positions due to many factors, mainly because fewer individuals are choosing to enter the profession in the current social and political environment. The City has analyzed many ways to increase efficiency with the current police force to serve the community best. The school zone speed cameras allow our police officers to focus more on issues involving mental health crises, domestic disputes, and other very serious issues. Fines related to the speed zone cameras are considerably lower than if a police officer wrote the citation. Camera citations are a civil fine, and the driver does not receive any points toward their driver’s license. However, unpaid fines would prevent the renewal of a car tag.
Enjoy life, take a deep breath, and enjoy the scenery for the short drives past our schools. Thanks for your support in helping to keep kids safe!