Panel nixes using cameras to catch speeders in school zones

RICHMOND – Despite no public opposition, a House subcommittee defeated a bill Thursday to allow the use of cameras to monitor speeding in school zones.

The House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee voted 6-0 to “pass by indefinitely” House Bill 1021, which would have allowed the installation of cameras to automatically take photos of individuals driving at least 12 mph over the posted speed limit. Twenty-five states including Tennessee and Florida have adopted similar legislation.

“Other than domestic violence situations, traffic stops are the most dangerous situations for law enforcement,” Eric Finkbeiner of American Traffic Solutions told the subcommittee. “In other states that have this legislation, there have been significant decreases both in traffic stops but also in speeding – sometimes between 15 and 20 percent.”

According to Finkbeiner, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reported almost 8,000 speeding violations in school zones in 2016 and more than 1,000 crashes in school zones as a result of speeding the following year. Five of the crashes involved fatalities.

HB 1021, introduced by Del. Leslie Adams, R-Pittsylvania, proposed the same photo-monitoring procedures already in use to document red light violations. It would have required a law enforcement officer to monitor the camera and issue tickets via mail to violators.

“I am afraid with legislation like this, we’re going to get a ticket in the mail and the seriousness of speeding in a school zone is going to be negated,” said Del. Emily Brewer, R-Suffolk, a member of the subcommittee.

Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, has proposed similar legislation in the Senate. SB 917 would allow law enforcement officers to operate a handheld photo speed monitoring device in or around school crossing zones to record images of vehicles traveling more than 12 mph above the posted speed limit.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 7-6 Wednesday in favor of Chase’s bill. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

The Senate has already passed SB 509, which would allow the Department of State Police to use handheld photo speed monitoring devices in or around highway work zones. Senators approved the bill on a 22-18 vote Tuesday.

On Thursday, SB 509 was assigned to the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

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