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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

School-zone speeders fight back and seek class action lawsuit

Catching school-zone speeders in Spokane has netted the city more than $1.3 million in fines. But those lucrative tickets have also earned the city a legal problem: a possible class-action lawsuit.

A law firm alleges that hundreds of people have been improperly ticketed for speeding in a school safety zone by the city’s photo-enforcement program.

Chris Williams, a lead plaintiff in the suit, claims he was traveling southbound on Nevada Street near Longfellow Elementary School and was ticketed for traveling 28 mph in a 20 mph school zone.

Williams said it’s not true: He wasn’t driving in the school zone when the camera captured his car.

“What we had found when Chris came to us is he didn’t think it was fair he got ticketed when he was not in the school zone at the time,” said attorney Larry Kuznetz, who is seeking class-action status for the complaint against the city of Spokane and Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions Inc., the company the city contracts with to provide the cameras and send the tickets.

Kuznetz believes such problems with the enforcement program are widespread, and could include 500 people who he said were improperly ticketed since 2015 by the city’s photo enforcement camera located near the school at the intersection of Nevada Street and Empire Avenue.

The lawsuit claims the city and American Traffic Solutions continue to engage in issuing notices of infractions to people who aren’t speeding in school zones.

The city implemented safety cameras in school zones in 2015. The school safety cameras are similar to red light cameras, with tickets mailed to vehicle owners after police officers review the photos and approve infractions.

The speed zone at a school crosswalk extends 300 feet in either direction and a $234 fine is issued for vehicles exceeding the 20 mph school speed limit by 6 to 10 mph.

In 2017, there were 7,347 speeding tickets issued at Longfellow and Finch elementary schools, and those tickets generated $1.3 million in revenue, according to the city of Spokane.

City spokesman Brian Coddington said the city is unable to comment on pending litigation.

American Traffic Solutions was not available for comment.

Kuznetz said clients are seeking damages, including reimbursement for tickets and associated costs.

“The city has generated a significant amount of ticket fees, so I think the people that are going to be a part of the class-action will want to be reimbursed for the ticket,” he said.