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Spokane to test speed cameras in school zones

Cameras used to snare red-light runners will now be used to nab school zone speeders.

Children who walk or bike to Longfellow, Finch and Stevens elementary schools may have a safer route next year as the city works to launch a camera pilot program that has been shown to drastically reduce speeds near schools in other Washington cities.

Speeds near elementary schools are already reduced to 20 miles per hour during certain times of the day, but this program would add cameras similar to red-light cameras to help ensure the law is followed. If a speeding car is captured by a camera, the vehicle’s registered owners will receive a fine of at least $124.

“They are very expensive parking tickets, essentially,” said Officer Theresa Fuller, a police spokeswoman. “Cities that have used the cameras have seen dramatic decreases in speeds.”

The school zone speed cameras are sure to draw protests and praise.

Some motorists have criticized red-light cameras as overreaching government surveillance even as police point to fewer crashes at those intersections.

Many parents and teachers will likely embrace the speeding-ticket cameras as a way to keep kids safe.

Fuller said speeds decreased by 30 percent in Bellevue during its first year of using the school zone cameras. Issaquah saw a 24 percent decrease, and Lynnwood had an 82 percent decrease in speed when the cameras were installed.

Fuller said the areas around Longfellow and Finch are “high-impact corridors,” but the city is still conducting speed studies to see how many cameras are needed and in what configuration.

Stevens will be included in the program on the recommendation of Councilman Jon Snyder after an 11-year-old boy was critically injured when a car hit him near the school last month.

“It’s one of the biggest complaints I get, people going too fast in school zones,” he said, adding that pedestrian and bicycle safety is lacking in Spokane.

“When you put a younger person into the equation, you can see how the same type of incident is going to be much more harmful,” he said. “They are particularly vulnerable.”

Of the 30,000 students that attend Spokane Public Schools, about 7,000 take the bus. It’s not known how many of the remaining 23,000 kids walk, bike or drive – or are driven – to school.

Regardless, Snyder said the pilot program could benefit everyone, not just students.

“In general, we’ve got a lot of issues with pedestrian safety,” he said. “I’m hoping this will improve safety for everyone.”


 

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