Speed cameras could be coming to a school zone near you

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A bill that would allow cities and counties to put speed cameras in school zones is working its way through the Florida legislature.

SB 410 allows cameras within 1,000 feet of a school zone. They can operate during the school day from up to one hour before through one hour after “a regularly scheduled school session” with penalties starting at 10 mph above the speed limit.

“Hundreds of thousands of Florida students cross roadways on their way to and from school, and nowhere in America are they in more danger from cars than in our state,” Fla. Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) said.

Rodriguez referenced the 2018 school safety study from Zendrive that put Florida second-to-last in the nation, with Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota Counties ranking in the top 15 most dangerous counties in Florida. That same study found pickup and dropoff times to be the most dangerous for kids.

In the bill’s first hearing — before the Senate Education Committee last week — a question from Fla. Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) highlighted the mismatch between the hours that flashing lights operate in school zones compared to SB 410.

“It’s 30 minutes for the flashing lights, whereas the actual time of enforcement [of this bill] is one hour,” responded Rodriguez. “The flashing lights can be adjusted to mirror the exact time of enforcement so that there’s no confusion amongst drivers,” which she also added can be done in reverse so that the bill’s hours could match those of the flashing lights.

The fines increase with the driver’s speed, starting at $200 for going 10-14 mph over the limit up to $500 for driving 30 mph or more above the limit.

Fines at various speeds above the limit in a school zone per SB 410.

Rodriguez says the data show how even small decreases in speed can save lives.

“The risk of severe injury for a pedestrian hit by a standard car at 16 mph is only 10%,” Rodriguez said. “Compared to 50% at 31 mph and 90% at 46 mph.”

Several senators on both sides of the aisle thought more money should go to local school districts, particularly for student walking safety initiatives.

As introduced, the bill sends $4 of that fine to school districts for those types of initiatives.

Many drivers don’t like speed cameras, and Fla. Sen. Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah) is one of them.

“Obviously I’ve consistently been concerned and against the addition of any cameras anywhere in our state for various reasons,” Diaz said, adding that he would support the bill at this committee stage subject to “further discussions” with the bill sponsor.

Other senators are fully in favor of the measure.

“School zones are areas with extremely high vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic,” said Fla. Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami), who has introduced legislation to put cameras on school buses to catch drivers who pass them while stopped. “One death of a child is one too many. We should do anything in our power to enforce the speed limit in order to prevent countless accidents.  Just this year from a AAA Survey, Florida drivers admitted to speeding in school zones. When SB 410 — bipartisan legislation which I’m proud to co-sponsor — is presented at my ATTED Committee, I’m sure we will see another unanimous Committee vote.”

The bill gives the owner of the car captured in the camera “the right to review, in person or remotely, the photographic or electronic images or streaming video and the evidence of the speed of the vehicle as measured by a speed detection system.”

SB 410 passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously. It now moves to the Appropriations Committee and one of its subcommittees before it would go to the full Senate floor during the legislative session, which begins Jan. 11, 2022.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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