Following is a public notice and FAQ (both unedited from the City) regarding changes being made to Clover Park school zone speed enforcement:
In order to enhance the safety of school children, the City of Lakewood is working hard to change the habits of some drivers who choose to ignore the school zone speed laws or just fail to pay attention to where they are. In a 2002 study of speeding in school zones, we discovered the average speed in Lakewood school zones was 35 MPH. National safety standards encourage a speed of 20 MPH in school zones. Research has shown a car/pedestrian accident at 20 MPH has only a 5% predictability of fatality; at 40 MPH the fatality predictability increases to 85%.
We are attempting to reduce average speed in school zones by stressing heavy enforcement of school zones speeds and by changing the signage in school zones to better reflect the times that speeds are to be enforced, thereby reducing confusion and subsequent poor compliance, as well as resolving difficulties with enforcement of the signs in Court. We have increased traffic patrol coverage in school zones already.
We began the process of upgrading school zone warning signs in November and December of 2005 by planning options with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and then advising the City Council of our findings. Our final plan was to mark all arterials with Yellow Flashing Lights while changing the signs on non-arterials to Time Frame based signage. We also decided to add warning signs at mid-points where cars enter the school zone between the entrance and exit school zone signs. The non-arterials signs were changed over to the Time Frame in January 2006. Warning notices on the Time Frame based signs were issued by Officers the first two weeks of February 2006. Full enforcement based on the new warning signs has since begun in all school zone areas.
The Washington Traffic Safety Commission strongly endorsed these signage changes as best practices for the safety of our school children. They are underwriting some of the costs. Their endorsement is attached.
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions:
What is the best safety measure? The Washington Traffic Safety Commission has found that the Yellow Flashing Lights are the best deterrent to speeding in school zones, but the cost is so high that it makes there use limited. The WTSC has stated that the second best alternative is a Time Frame sign. The WTSC encourages against the use of wording of WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT on school zone signs.
Where will Lakewood use Yellow Flashing Lights to slow traffic in school zones? On all arterial roads; an arterial is major thoroughfare, used primarily for through traffic rather than for access to abutting land, that is characterized by high vehicular capacity and continuity of movement. Speed limits on our arterial roads are all 30 MPH or higher in Lakewood. Currently there are 17 school zones on arterial roads. Lakewood has flashing yellow lights on 11 of these already and plans to complete installation of flashing yellow lights on the others before the 2006 school year begins.
What is the plan for non & arterials roads? Speed limits on these roads in Lakewood are 25 MPH or less. School zones on these roads were previously signed as follows:
SCHOOL ZONE SPEED 20 MPH when children are present
- Too confusing: loopholes abound in this language and citizens, police officer and courts have a difficult time interpreting
- Not sure of time coverage
- Not sure of area covered
- Discouraged by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission
They are now being changed to: SCHOOL ZONE SPEED 20 MPH 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- To the point-during the Time Frame the speed is 20 MPH
- No mistaking day/time/area covered
- 5:00 pm for after school programs
- Recommended by Washington Traffic Safety Commission
Why did we do this? This change will eliminate any confusion about whether or not children are present and give drivers a clear time of when they need to travel 20 MPH in a school zone. It will also be more enforceable in Court.
Where are the Time Frame signs being placed? They will be posted on all non-arterial roads that previously had the signs WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT. They will also be placed on the six arterial roads now lacking Flashing Yellow Lights until those lights are installed (anticipated before the 2006 school year begins).
Why not just place flashing yellow lights on all school zone areas? The Washington Traffic Safety Commission has found that the flashing yellow signs are the best deterrent to speeding in school zones, but there cost is so high that it makes their use limited. The WTSC has stated that the second best alternative is the Time Frame sign. The WTSC encourages against the use of wording of WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT.
When will the mid-point warning signs be in place? These signs have been funded and are now in process of installation. They should be complete before the 2006 school year begins.
Will Officers be issuing citations to speeders in school zones 7 days a week? Officers will not be issuing school zone citation 7 days a week. They will issue school zone citations on arterials only when yellow lights are flashing. They will issue citations on Time Frame signs only on Monday-Friday from 7 AM- 3:45 unless a scheduled after school activity in underway. In those instances, officers may issue citations up to 5 PM.
Will Officers issue citations in school zones on school holidays and during the summer? Officers also will not enforce on holidays or in the summer unless summer school is in session at a specific school.
Why will Officers issue citations when many schools are out by 3:45 PM? Many schools have after school activities and the general public is unaware of these schedules. It is wise for them to slow down from 25 to 20 MPH in non-arterial school zones because of this. However, officers will only be issuing citations after 3:45 PM on non-arterial school zones if a school has a confirmed after school activity.
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Speeding is a problem in many of our neighborhoods, and school zones. In order to enhance the safety of school children, the City of Lakewood is working hard to change the habits of some drivers who choose to ignore the school zone speed laws or just fail to pay attention to where they are. In a 2002 study of speeding in school zones, we discovered the average speed in Lakewood school zones was 35 MPH. National safety standards encourage a speed of 20 MPH in school zones. Research has shown a car/pedestrian accident at 20 MPH has only a 5% predictability of fatality; at 40 MPH the fatality predictability increases to 85%. In a test program in 2003, using photo radar enforcement, we were able to reduce average speed in Lakewood school zones to 25 MPH. Automated enforcement has proven to be a very cost effective way to enforce speeding laws.
FAQ on the photo-radar.
Q: How do I know the citation belongs to MY car? Can they make mistakes and photograph my car when somebody else was speeding?
A: An Officer must visually observe the traffic and will be able to tell which car is speeding when two vehicles are approaching at once. The Officer will make notation of his/her observation. The camera will only photograph a single car in the radar beam. If you are being passed by a speeder while you are both in the radar beam, no picture will be taken.
Q: I thought it was illegal to photograph driver’s faces?
A: It’s not illegal, however, we don’t photograph driver’s faces, regardless, and only the rear of the car is photographed. You can sometimes barely discern the driver’s silhouette (from the back) in the window. You can’t tell a driver’s gender, age, race, or any other identifying characteristics in photo-radar pictures.
Q: Can I see proof that it is my car?
A: Yes. The citation is mailed to the Registered Owner within 14 days of the violation. Included on the citation is a photograph which shows the full back of the car and the surrounding area. This is adequate for owner identification of his/her own vehicle.
Q: What if I wasn’t driving?
A: The back of the citation provides for you to appear in court, or to simply send in a notarized affidavit that you were not the driver. In the case of court appearance, a judge hears the case and makes a ruling of guilt or innocence.
Q. Is this just a “money maker” for the city?
A. In order to enhance the safety of school children, the City of Lakewood is working hard to change the habits of some drivers who choose to ignore the school zone speed laws or just fail to pay attention to where they are. In a 2002 study of speeding in school zones, we discovered the average speed in Lakewood school zones was 35 MPH. National safety standards encourage a speed of 20 MPH in school zones. Research has shown a car/pedestrian accident at 20 MPH has only a 5% predictability of fatality; at 40 MPH the fatality predictability increases to 85%. In a test program in 2003, using photo radar enforcement, we were able to reduce average speed in Lakewood school zones to 25 MPH.
Q: Will the citation increase my insurance rates or go on my driver’s record?
A: The photo-radar citations are treated like a parking ticket. They do not go on your driving record, and do not affect your insurance rates.
Q: When can I get a ticket?
A: You can get a ticket from automated enforcement when you violate school zone speed laws. School zone are carefully signed throughout the city (see FAQ on School Zones).
Q: What is the Penalty?
A: Citations will vary depending on the vehicles rate of speed, but will not exceed $250.
Q: What if there are no children in the area?
A: The posted signs NOW state the speed limit of 20 mph from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and not WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT so the driver can still be issued a citation.
Q: Is this program legal?
A: The Legislature legalized photo radar enforcement last year. The state allows it at school zones, railroad crossings and red lights. Lakewood tried out the program from 2001 to 2003 and has cameras at two intersections to catch red-light runners and will begin photo enforcement in school zones on March 1, 2006. The city has no plans to monitor railroad crossings with cameras.
Q: Is it a camera?
A: It is an automated camera, but it requires a Community Service Officer to monitor it during deployment to insure that all photographs taken are accurate and verified. The CSO must also review and approve every citation.
Q: How do I know it’s accurate?
A: At the beginning and the end of each shift, the officer performs a “calibration verification” test to insure the radar unit is functioning accurately. The entire radar unit is recalibrated and certified yearly, by an independent lab.
Q: Are the officers trained?
A: The photo-radar officers are all trained and certified in stationary and photo-radar operations. There is no legal requirement for this, but the City of Lakewood chooses to do this to insure the highest possible standards are met.
Q: What does the officer do besides watch the equipment?
A: The officer visually monitors oncoming traffic to determine manually which cars appear to be speeding. He also makes a log entry of the photograph frame number, time, date, direction of travel, weather, light conditions, lane number, type, color, and # of doors of the vehicle he observes if it triggers a photograph.