Study finds school zone speeding rampant as lawmakers push for camera enforcement

Florida Politics | By Drew Wilson | April 19, 2023

More than 96% of drivers went at least 10 mph over the limit.

Proponents of a proposal to use cameras to enforce school zone speed limits highlighted another study showing the bill could make kids safer as they make the trek to and from school.

A bill (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’ bill has cleared two committees and is awaiting with bipartisan support and is pending a hearing in Fiscal Policy. If approved there, the bill would head to the full Senate. A companion bill (HB 657) sponsored by Rep. Traci Koster aced its committee references and is ready for the chamber floor.

Blue Line Solutions, a Tennessee-based traffic safety company that sells photo speed enforcement systems, posted up outside of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School earlier this month to clock drivers during school zone hours and throughout the day to measure current adherence to speed limits.

They found that 96% of cars were speeding during 7:20 a.m. to 8 a.m. school zone period. Speedometers can be inaccurate at sub-20 mph speeds, but that excuse wouldn’t apply here — according to Blue Line Solutions, as the study defines “speeders” as those going at least 10 mph over the 15-mph limit. That aligns with the language in Rodriguez’ and Koster’s bills.

The new results also jibe with a prior study conducted by the same company.

BlueLine Solutions clocked drivers around Hillsborough County’s Bloomingdale High School for one school week in mid-January, and 7,171 of 7,310 drivers (98.1%) were clocked at 30 mph or more when the restricted speed limit of 20 mph was in effect.

“The results of these studies are extremely concerning and highlight just how widespread of an issue school zone speeding is. It’s clear that drivers are purposefully ignoring school zone signs and flashing lights with a disregard for children’s safety.” said Koster.

“We’re not talking about drivers going 1 or 2 mph above the speed limit. This bill is geared towards intentional speeders going more than 10 mph above the speed limit. That’s at least 26 mph in a 15-mph school zone, during hours when young children are walking to school, crossing the street, and getting on and off school buses.”

Rodriguez has championed school zone cameras since her election to the Senate, but her past efforts sputtered out — the 2022 bill made it through all its committee references but was never taken up on the chamber floor, likely due to general distaste for camera enforcement systems.

However, lawmaker animus is mostly directed at red-light cameras, which have taken flack for surprise fees charges by the various third-party contractors municipalities hired to administer the camera systems.

The school-zone bills attempt to assuage fears of a red-light cam redux by setting the ticket fee at $100. Of that, the bill mandates $60 go toward public safety initiatives, including speed detection systems, $12 go to initiatives to make it safer to walk to school, and $5 go to recruiting and retaining school crossing guards.

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