New study shows Florida drivers zoom through school zones

Florida Politics | By Drew Wilson | March 14, 2023

In front of one Hillsborough high school, 98.1% of drivers were speeding during the morning school zone hour.

A bill that would use cameras to make sure drivers pump the brakes in school zones is speeding through committee, and a new study shows it could make an immediate impact.

The legislation (SB 588) sponsored by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez would authorize local governments to set up camera-enforced “speed detection systems” within school zones, either on their own or by contracting with a third party.

The systems may be used to enforce school zone speed limits, as well as regular speed limits while school is in session but the yellow lights aren’t flashing. Local governments must inform drivers that cameras are in use, both by road sign and via public announcement.

Rodriguez’s bill was unanimously approved in the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday and is now awaiting a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation. A companion bill (HB 657) sponsored by Rep. Traci Koster will be heard by the House Transportation & Modals Subcommittee when it meets Wednesday.

Rodriguez has championed school zone cameras since her election to the Senate, but her past efforts sputtered — the 2022 bill made it through all its committee references but was never taken up on the chamber floor.

In advocating for the bill, the Doral Republican has cited data that shows Florida is the bottom-ranked state in terms of unsafe driving in school zones and that 20 Florida counties earned an “F” grade for school zone safety.

If trends spotted at Hillsborough County’s Bloomingdale High School are any indication, speeding through school zones remains a near-universal practice in the Sunshine State.

BlueLine Solutions, a traffic safety company that sells photo speed enforcement systems, clocked drivers for one school week in mid-January. For the purposes of this study — and the bills carried by Rodriguez and Koster — drivers were only considered to be “speeding” if they were traveling at least 10 mph faster than the posted limit.

Of the 7,310 vehicles that passed through during the morning school zone hour, BlueLine Solutions said 7,171 (98.1%) were speeding when the restricted speed limit of 20 mph was in effect. During the after-school restricted speed limit period, 5,017 of 7,906 vehicles (63.5%) were traveling at a speed of 30 mph or more.

Drivers fared better during the day, with just 1.5% of drivers (931) speeding while school was in session and the non-restricted speed limit (45 mph) was in effect.

Overall, 64.1% of speeders were traveling at least 21 mph faster than the posted speed limit. Another 22.9% were driving 15-20 mph over the speed limit, while the remainder were driving 11-14 mph over the speed limit.

“This study shows a clear need for enforcement of School Zone speed limits,” BlueLine Solutions concluded.

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