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New school zone cameras ready for January rollout

New signs, lights and cameras have been installed at three schools, including Cascade Elementary on 116th Avenue.  - Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter
New signs, lights and cameras have been installed at three schools, including Cascade Elementary on 116th Avenue.
— image credit: Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter

New cameras in school zones that were originally expected to be ready to go in September have now been installed and will go into operation at Cascade, Honey Dew and Benson Hill elementary schools on Jan. 6.

The three new locations were approved based on a traffic study that identified these areas as having the highest number of vehicles exceeding the 20 mph speed limit.

"Our school zone speed safety cameras have resulted in drivers slowing down," said Mayor Denis Law in a press release. "We are now expanding this program to areas where a significant number of drivers continue to exceed the speed limit."

According to studies completed by American Traffic Solutions, the company that handles the city's traffic camera contract, and reported by the Renton Police Department in May, 19 percent of the 1123 vehicles that passed through the Honey Dew school zone during the morning commute were traveling faster than 26 mph in the 20 mph zone.

In the afternoon, it jumped to 23 percent of cars speeding through the zone."What's the difference between 20 mph and 26 mph? Twenty-six feet of stopping distance," said Commander Clark Wilcox. "With children walking in the area, that 26 feet could mean the difference between life and death."

At Cascade, 30 percent of the 723 cars in the morning and 29 percent of the 658 cars in the afternoon sped through the school zone.At Benson Hill the numbers were even higher with 37 percent of the 570 vehicles speeding in the morning and 31 percent of the 691 in the afternoon.

The delay in installing the new cameras came about because some of the equipment needed was on back order.Signs have been posted at the new locations to alert drivers that cameras are in use. The cameras operate during school times and capture still photographs and video of every vehicle that exceeds the school zone speed limit.

Vehicles exceeding the speed limit through the school zones will be photographed, and those images will be reviewed by the Renton Police Department to determine if a citation is to be issued.This program is also being expanded to include red-light safety cameras at the Benson Road South intersection with Petrovitsky/Southeast Carr Road in 2014.

A school zone camera at Renton High School was also removed and replaced with additional patrols. A warning period will be in effect from January 6, to February 3. After the warning period, the registered owner of the offending car will be issued a ticket for $124 if the 20 mph school zone speed limit is exceeded by 6 to 15 mph and $250 if the speed limit is exceeded by 16 mph or more.

Renton launched its first red-light cameras in 2008 and became the first city in Washington to put cameras in school zones."Our goal is to make Renton a safer place for everyone who uses the roads in our city, especially for our children in school zones," Law said.

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