Council amends city code to allow for school zone speed cameras

Published 10:00 am Friday, March 29, 2024

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After a delay, school zone speed cameras are coming to LaGrange.

The LaGrange City Council has approved a city code amendment that will allow for school zones within the city to be monitored via speed cameras through an agreement with an outside company.

In August, the city approved an agreement with RedSpeed USA, a camera ticketing company, to place speed cameras within all school zones within the city to help slow down motorists.

Chief Garrett Fiveash said the primary goal is to protect kids from speeding motorists who have gotten out of control.

“In a traffic survey on the seven school zones that we have in the city, in one day from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4: 30 p.m. in the afternoon, we had 3,578 violations over 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit in the school zone. That’s a problem,” Fiveash said.

Fiveash reminded that the tickets issued by the cameras will be civil fines, so they don’t affect driver records or insurance. The first fine is $75 and subsequent fines are $125. And they won’t issue tickets for less than 15 miles per hour over the limit.

“By comparison, if one of my officers stops you, the first time you get a citation for 15 mph over the speed limit it’s $202 and the second and subsequent are $377. Once it’s your third time, that’s a mandatory court appearance, plus points and the ability to have your driver’s license taken away and have your vehicle towed because you’re a habitual violator,” Fiveash said.

The cameras also are equipped with FLOCK camera technology, which police can use free of charge to track criminal activity.

“There’s no financial outlay whatsoever for the city for this entire program. All the equipment is maintained and or repaired by RedSpeed. That saves us just on the FLOCK cameras about $49,000 a year that would have cost the city to have those 14 cameras available,” he said.

Chief Fiveash also addressed concerns about warning distances before the ticketing zone begins. He said the cameras have an average of 600 feet from the first school zone sign before the enforcement zone begins. The ticketing area doesn’t begin until 75 feet after you pass the cameras, he said.

Fiveash noted that the enforcement zones themselves are typically very small. Clearview Elementary has a total enforcement of 1050 feet. Franklin Forest is 1250 feet. Gardner Newman is 350 feet, he said.

“These are just really short distances all total among the seven school zones. There’s 1.1 miles of enforcement in total,” Fiveash said.

During the previous council meeting, Councilman Mark Mitchell requested to delay the approval due to ensure the school zones would have flashing lights to indicate when they are active. On Tuesday, Fiveash said that only three of the city’s seven school zones are not equipped with flashing lights and he has reached out to RedSpeed to fix that.

Fiveash also explained that if motorists drive the regular posted speed limit — even during reduced school zone limits — the cameras won’t issue a ticket.

“Based on the speed parameters that were requested by the council, we are not ticketing anybody until 16 miles per hour over the speed limit. So if you’re just driving the regular speed limit when the school zone is not in effect, you’re still good either way,” Fiveash said.

If the city were to break the contract approved in August with RedSpeed, it would be required to pay $10,000 per camera for a total of $70,000 if they are not used for at least a year.

The council unanimously approved the amendment, which will allow the cameras to be used and issue tickets.