Traffic cameras
Roger Werth / TDN file

When school starts Wednesday in Longview, five school zones will have an extra set of eyes watching drivers’ speeds.

The city has expanded its photo-enforced school speed camera program to include the St. Helens, Kessler and Olympic elementary school zones, adding to the speed cameras installed in 2011 in the Columbia Valley Garden and Mint Valley elementary school zones.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Tammy Carnahan, whose grandson Samuel Pomerinke will start kindergarten at Olympic, said outside the school Friday. “It keeps the kids safe. People do speed through here. They don’t pay attention to the 20 mph signs.”

Drivers exceeding the 20 mph speed limit in the three new school zones will receive a warning for 30 days after the cameras are turned on Wednesday. In the CVG and Mint Valley zones, no warnings will be issued because the drivers have had two years to get used to the cameras at those locations.

“Photo enforced” signs are being posted in both directions. Schools will still have crossing guards.

Samuel’s father, Adam Pomerinke, walked to Olympic when he was a boy, but he said he plans to pedal his son to school in a trailer attached to his bike. He said he’s “totally in support” of speed cameras.

“They’re going to get a lot of money in tickets,” he predicted. “I hope it’s going to be put back into safety programs.”

Speeding tickets start at $124.

The new camera locations, approved by the City Council, were chosen based on speed data Longview police collected in school zones as well as recommendations from the Longview School District.

The city’s camera rental cost is $4,750 a month per school zone, and the camera contract will be extended from the end of 2014 to Dec. 31, 2016. The contract allows the vendor, American Traffic Solutions, to charge an additional $5 fee per violation in school zones with more than 800 violations per month, which will help the vendor cover its costs of processing tickets.

In the two years since cameras were installed at CVG and Mint Valley, speed violations in both schools have decreased by about 37 percent, from an average of 297 speed violations per month in both school zones in 2011 to an average of 186 per month in 2013.

Mark Morris High School and Northlake Elementary were originally on the list for speed cameras. However, given the school merger discussion that could lead to both schools’ closures, the camera vendor will perform the advance site work and then wait until the board makes a decision. The board is still examining different options and it may be months before anything is decided.


How do the cameras work?

There are multiple ways Speed Safety Cameras can capture violating vehicles: A speeding vehicle can be detected by sensors embedded in the road just before the speed-enforcement zone or by passing through radar or laser beams that span across the road.

If a vehicle meets or exceeds the speed criteria established by the municipality, the system’s camera captures two images: one at the initial point of speed detection and a second confirmation image based on a fixed distance calculation.

With each image, the system records relevant violation data such as the location, date, time (in tenths of seconds), speed and posted speed.

The system also records a 12-second digital video of the violation.

A trained law enforcement official must review all captured evidence of a potential speeding violation and approve the violation before citations are issued. These officials closely examine the images, video and violation data to determine whether a violation did in fact occur.

— American Traffic Solutions

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