• Legislative Update: Smile, You're On Candid Camera!


    COLUMN

    Contact:   Ines Owens, Director
                   Elisabeth Fletcher, Commications Specialist
                   elisabeth.fletcher@senate.ga.gov

    Legislative Update: Smile, You're On Candid Camera!



    By: Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry)


    It's that time of year when families across Georgia will shift their focus from family vacations and summer reading lists back to their school routine. It’s an exciting time for parents, filled with anticipation for teachers and a mixture of emotions for students both new and returning. I’ve had some questions over the past few weeks on the camera ticketing laws in Georgia and how they might affect your morning commute as school is back in session. In this column, we’ll review these laws and ensure you’re up-to-date on how these cameras work.
     
    In Georgia, there are three major types of cameras that can take a picture of your vehicle and send you a ticket for a traffic violation. These are: traffic light cameras, school bus cameras and school zone cameras. They are all used to monitor different violations, which are detailed below.
     
    Traffic light cameras, also known as “red light cameras,” are authorized for use by the Georgia Department of Transportation, if a local government requests one because of a documented safety need for the camera. These cameras are placed based on their ability to save lives, not their ability to generate funds from ticketing.
     
    School bus cameras are used at the discretion of the school district and used to capture vehicles that are illegally passing school busses. It is not permitted to pass a stopped school bus unless a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction of the school bus is separated from the bus by a physical barrier such as a concrete wall, grass median or an unpaved area. Other than that circumstance, you should always stop for a school bus and allow the student plenty of time to exit or enter the bus safely. The revenue from these tickets are to only be used for law enforcement or public safety initiatives.
     
    School zone cameras are probably the one I get the most questions about in relation to the way they work and how they monitor speed. These cameras are automated and only used during school hours, and one hour before and after classes begin and end.  For example, if school starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m., the cameras will be in use during the school year from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. They are monitoring speed, which often changes in a school zone during school hours. Speeding for these cameras is defined as, at least, 10 miles per hour over the listed speed limit. Signs to notify drivers of their use must be posted and the system must be calibrated every year. The revenue generated from these tickets are to be remitted to the governing body, which would be the city or county in which the school zone camera is located. In most cases a third party business fronts the costs for the camera system under contract with the municipality and receives a large percentage of the ticket revenue generated.  
     
    Simply put, camera ticketing laws and the presence of cameras in school zones should not affect you on a day-to-day basis as you should never speed in a school zone, run a red light or pass a school bus dropping off or picking up students. But there have been concerns over the “big brother” aspect of these cameras and what some may think of as overreach on the part of the government. I must admit that I share these concerns because of the profit motive behind the funding of these system.  I look at this from the perspective that these camera ticketing devices should not be used for ‘for-profit policing,’ which, in my opinion, can lead to abuse. But, with proper controls in place and when used in the best interest of the safety of our students, teachers, school bus drivers and parents picking up from school, their use can be appropriate. I welcome your thoughts and feedback on this issue.
     
    If you have additional questions about these devices or any other legislation, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. Teachers, thank you for your dedication to our state’s most valuable asset for our future - our students. And students, I wish you the best as you grow and learn over the next year. Treat your teachers with respect and listen to them and I am sure you will have the best year yet. I hope that everyone has a wonderful 2019-2020 school year!
     

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    Sen. Larry Walker serves as Caucus Vice Chairman for the Majority Party.  He represents the 20th Senate District, which includes Bleckley, Houston, Laurens and Pulaski counties.  He may be reached by phone at (404) 656-0095 or by email at larry.walker@senate.ga.gov