This article first appeared in Komo News

Crashes decreased year by year in these zones with cameras, 11 reported collisions from September – December last year. This report states more than 54,000 citations issued in 2021.

Seattle to double number of speed cameras in school zones

The city will be adding dozens more speed cameras to Seattle streets to get traffic to slow down near schools. Seattle’s school zone camera program has proven to reduce the number of crashes, and police have issued tens of thousands of citations, but not everyone is on board with it.

The recently adopted budget adds $1 million to Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) fund to enforce the 20 mile an hour limit to make school zones safer for drivers, and kids walking to and from school.

“I’d definitely say it’s a dangerous street, for sure,” said a woman living near Broadview Thompson K-8 school who says the cameras near the campus are constantly catching speeders. “Every time the camera goes off, it flashes like a silver light so I can see it through my living room window.”

For similar enforcement near more Seattle campuses, the city’s adopted budget doubles the number of cameras in school zones to 70 over the next two years. There are currently 35 cameras at 19 Seattle schools.

“It’s very efficient to do this because we know we have a severe staffing shortage within the police department,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who is the legislation sponsor.

“Driving at, or below, 20 mph gives people driving and children walking more time to see one another and react, reducing both the probability of a collision and the risk of serious injury if there is a collision,” SDOT Spokesperson Ethan Bergerson said in an emailed statement. “A person hit by a car driving 20 mph has a 90% chance of surviving, compared to a 90% chance of being killed if they are hit by a car driving 40 MPH.”

The number of crashes decreases year by year in these zones with cameras, with 11 reported collisions from September through December last year, down from 14 in the same time frame in 2020, an SDOT report states. There is typically one collision reported per month in school zones with speed cameras. The report also says there were more than 54,000 citations issued in 2021.

“We want to expand how we protect kids walking to and from school,” Pedersen added.

The cameras are not supposed to cite drivers when school is out, something one neighbor named Aurora wonders about because she says she constantly sees the cameras flashing off Greenwood Avenue N and 133rd Street.

“I wonder if the city is just reaping benefits from those fines when technically they shouldn’t be, you know, because school’s not in session,” Aurora stated. “I understand the need for it when school is in session but when it’s not, this is such a busy thoroughfare to get to Highway 99.”

Councilmember Pedersen maintains the light can flash as a warning beyond the time the camera is working.

It’s unclear where the 35 new cameras will go, but SDOT will work with Seattle Police Department and principals to figure out the schools that have the biggest need for them.

“These cameras are monitored and kept in good functioning order,” he said. “It’s meant not as a revenue generator but as a traffic safety measure.”