Automated speeding tickets probably coming soon to a school zone near you

Miami Herald | By Douglas Hanks | September 13, 2023

If you’re speeding past a school in Florida, there is a good chance a ticket will be coming your way soon.

A state law that went into effect July 1 legalizes speed-detection cameras in Florida when they’re installed in school zones. Companies that operate the devices are signing deals with local governments to install and maintain the cameras behind the $100 tickets that would be generated automatically during school days.

“It protects our children,” said Anthony Rodriguez, the Miami-Dade commissioner sponsoring legislation to authorize the cameras and award a Georgia company a contract to install them at more than 200 schools outside city limits across the county. “It’s for the safety of our kids.”

Miami Gardens is considering a similar agreement with the company, Redspeed, for school zones under its jurisdiction. Pinecrest already has an agreement with Redspeed as the village council prepares to pass the legislation required to start ticketing drivers automatically.

“Speeding is one of the biggest complaints I get as the chief here in the village,” said Jason Cohen, Pinecrest’s police chief. “There are problems with speeding everywhere. When we are out there, people behave.”

Florida’s authorization of school-zone speed cameras follows the state’s rocky relationship with red-light cameras, which remain legal in the state but harder to find after legal challenges and political backlash against the devices.

Miami-Dade commissioners in 2016 voted to ban them in the unincorporated areas under county jurisdiction, territory that covers about half of the households. Doral voted to remove red light cameras earlier this year.

State rules on the school-zone cameras restrict where the devices can be installed and when tickets may be issued. Cameras can only generate tickets in a window of time that includes the entire school day, plus 30 minutes before classes start and another 30 minutes after students are dismissed. Tickets would be issued when a driver exceeds the school-zone speed limit by more than 10 mph.

“It’s a great step in ensuring that our children’s safety remains our top priority,” said Linda Julien, the council member sponsoring the camera legislation in Miami Gardens.

School zones maintain two speed limits. Most lower the limit to 15 mph for 30 minutes before and after the start of school and again in the afternoon before and after dismissal time.

Local governments must launch education campaigns for drivers notifying them of the pending camera enforcement outside schools. No points are issued against drivers’ licenses from citations created by cameras.

Florida also requires local governments to consider safety and traffic data for each school zone before installing cameras. The Rodriguez legislation cites county police issuing nearly 2,500 speeding tickets in school zones in 2022 to justify cameras for 206 public and private schools throughout unincorporated Miami-Dade.

The legislation won preliminary approval by a unanimous vote on Sept. 6, with a final vote expected later this year. Commissioner Eileen Higgins said she’s supporting the plan after seeing too many cars speeding past schools where children arrive by foot and bike.

“I’d be perfectly happy if people got a ticket there,” she said. “We have a problem with people speeding through school zones.”

Rodriguez faced some opposition at a hearing Monday for separate legislation awarding the county’s school-zone camera contract to Redspeed without accepting bids from competitors. Instead, Miami-Dade would use an existing contract in Georgia to create a new agreement. For installing and maintaining the cameras, Redspeed would keep an unspecified portion of the $60 from each ticket that would otherwise go to the county.

Brian May, a lobbyist for Redspeed competitor Verra Mobility, told commissioners the county could face a legal challenge if it doesn’t invite bids for a speed-camera contract. Rodriguez said he doesn’t want the delay associated with a competitive procurement involving a selection committee, administrative review and multiple commission votes.

“If one child gets injured in that time frame, I don’t think I could live with myself,” he said.

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