These South Florida school zones may get cameras to ticket speeding drivers

Possibly coming to a school near you: A speed-detection camera to automatically issue a ticket.

A new state law, which took effect on July 1, allows the speed-detection cameras to be installed in school zones, giving municipalities and counties the choice to use them.

And several local governments in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade say they’ve begun either mulling the idea or actively pursuing plans to set up the cameras.

The cameras will be used to enforce speed limits in school zones within 30 minutes before school, during school, and 30 minutes after classes end and children are being dismissed. Those traveling more than 10 mph over the speed limit will be ticketed, and the owner of the car would get the $100 fine, but not a moving violation or points against their license.

Among those considering the idea, or further along with plans, are Coconut Creek, Dania Beach, Davie, Parkland, Plantation, Pompano Beach, and Tamarac, as well as Delray Beach, and reportedly some communities in Miami-Dade.

In Coconut Creek, the City Commission has already signed off on the idea and now vetting camera vendors.

Mayor Josh Rydell said the move will free up police officers in those zones and particularly benefit smaller departments in the state that don’t have the resources for aggressive traffic control around schools.

“This is going to protect our kids,” he said. “You’re going to be able to track and fine bad actors and bad behavior in school zones. I’m a big proponent of this.”

The move will protect “literally one of our most vulnerable populations, which is our children,” he said.

But it won’t be without pushback. Red-light cameras have long been a controversial issue in Florida, with critics arguing that they have become a way for local governments and red-light camera companies to make money. Fans say the cameras make the roads safer and keep drivers from running red lights.

Ted Hollander, an attorney with The Ticket Clinic, which has contested thousands of South Florida red-light camera tickets in court, said while red-light cameras are still legal in Florida, the majority remain only in Miami-Dade and Orlando.

He has argued red-light cameras “are not about safety, it’s more of a money grab.”

The new law, he said, is also “even more troubling, this is even worse.”

His issue now is “the purpose of a police officer monitoring a school zone is to have a presence there. With these cameras, nobody will know who is getting tickets so there is no deterrence factor.”

Also, the violations are for those driving “in excess of 10 miles per hour over the speed limit,” so drivers going 25 mph in a 15 mph school zone wouldn’t result in a ticket from the cameras, which means it’s “giving everybody permission to go 10 over the limit,” he argued.

He also questioned how impactful a $100 fine would be.

“If you go 75 mph, you are going to get a $100 (ticket and) if you pay it, it disappears and nobody ever sees it. How is that helping everybody? It isn’t,” he said. “In a normal situation, 10 over in a school zone is $300, or $400 citation with points. This is $100 whether 11 over or 100 over, it’s just a $100.”

Still, the newest state law for cameras specifically for schools has caught the attention of local governments.

“We are very interested,” said Ana Garcia, the city manager for Dania Beach. “Safety is our No. 1 priority here in Dania Beach, hence any proactive measures we can take we will explore, and implement. Currently our Chief is working with our BSO Team and legal (department) to look into program. We are very interested.”

Here are some cities’ responses about considering the cameras:

  • “The city of Pompano Beach is aware of the new law and are considering the possibility of installing cameras for safety purposes but we do not have any definitive plans at this time,” said city spokeswoman Sandra King.
  • In Tamarac, the city commission has agreed to direct its staff “to identify a company that could complete a free traffic study of school zones within the city limits and present the results” at a workshop,” said city spokeswoman Eunicia Baker.
  • The cameras are under consideration in Davie to be placed at every public school.

Other cities still have to make a decision.

The North Lauderdale City Commission is scheduled to discuss its options at an Oct. 18 workshop. Parkland leaders are scheduled to discuss it at a future strategic planning session to decide how to proceed.

And in Margate, while “it is under consideration at the staff level, but has not been discussed at the commission level yet,” said City Manager Cale Curtis. “I do anticipate that discussion coming in the near future.”

Others are more imminent. In Plantation, for example, a bid to find a camera vendor is expected within 60 days.

In Palm Beach County, plans are more fluid: “We are looking into it as an option,” said Ted White, Delray Beach police spokesman.

The Miami Herald reported Miami Gardens is considering a similar agreement with the company, Redspeed, for school zones under its jurisdiction. Pinecrest already has an agreement with Redspeed as the village council prepares to pass the legislation required to start ticketing drivers automatically. And a Miami-Dade commissioner is backing legislation to allow the cameras and install them at many schools outside city limits, the Herald reported.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash

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