Speed cameras in school zones take a key step forward

“These cars are too fast!”

-Atlanta student, age 7, waiting to cross Memorial Drive on his way to school.

Every day, thousands of Atlanta children walk or bike to school in the city of Atlanta. On the way, they wave at neighbors, get exercise, chat with friends. And all too often, they face life-threatening risks from speeding drivers. 

High speeds, disregard for kids’ safety, and a nation still recovering from a public health crisis and a cascade of economic stressors are on full display in school zones across the city. During the pandemic, average speeds increased all over the country. As workplaces and schools reopened, community members reported even more dangerous conditions for kids than before the pandemic.

Families attending schools in communities on the High-Injury Network — the 8% of Atlanta streets that account for 88% of traffic fatalities, face even greater risk.

Automated speed cameras are proven to reduce dangerous speeding — while also reducing people’s interactions with armed police enforcement. According to a Washington Post database, about 11% of all fatal shootings by police in 2015 took place during traffic stops. Automated speed cameras interrupt that cycle while also protecting the lives of children, staff, and families. Speed cameras reinforce other key efforts that are part of an overall safe systems approach, such as redesigning the physical layout of streets to reduce speeding.

There are many reasons to support automated speed enforcement in school zones. Every kid, teacher, parent, and school staff member is one of them. 

One of our 2021 policy agenda recommendations is to ensure transparency in the speed camera program. We called for Atlanta Public Schools (APS) to share data in order to provide accountability, prevent the racial profiling too often associated with armed police enforcement, and inform safer street design.

Policy change

  • In 2018, we worked with Georgia Bikes, PEDS, and other advocates to change Georgia state law to allow speed cameras in school zones (here’s our 2018 letter to state lawmakers on SB 435).
  • In 2020, the City of Atlanta adopted a resolution approving an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools for the School Bus Stop-Arm Camera Enforcement Program and authorizing the collection and sharing of fines resulting from offenses (21-R-3005).
  • Three years later, many metro Atlanta school districts have implemented speed cameras in school zones, including Gwinnett, Henry, and Clayton. According to the AJC, some 40 counties and cities in Georgia, including Austell, Canton, Duluth, Jonesboro, Lilburn, Roswell, and Snellville have contracted to install speed cameras — see map below.



    Status of speed cameras in the City of Atlanta

    While Atlanta Public Schools and the City of Atlanta have made progress with their agreement, automated speed enforcement cameras still have not been installed or implemented.

    Safety advocates, including our organization, are pushing the City of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools to move faster on speed cameras.

    On September 8, 2021, we learned that the City and APS had reached an agreement regarding speed cameras in school zones. We were told that once the paperwork was signed, the APS speed camera vendor would start working on permits for the camera locations (the Georgia Department of Transportation reviews speed camera permits). It is essential that the Atlanta Department of Transportation, which is charged with achieving the City’s goal that no one dies in traffic, is involved in this process. And it is imperative that the school system moves quickly to protect lives by slowing down speeds in school zones.

    What’s next

    We met with Atlanta Board of Education member Eshe Collins to seek her support in engaging parents and schools in this conversation. Next, look out for a call to action asking for your help in reducing dangerous speeds by supporting speed cameras in school zones.