School Zone Speed Enforcement

PD School Zone (2).PNG

The City Council approved the implementation of a school zone photo enforcement camera pilot at John Muir Elementary/Kamiakin Middle School, and Rose Hill Elementary in 2019. The primary goal of the pilot is to use the automated enforcement cameras to reduce speeds in school zones thereby reducing the risk of serious injuries or fatalities from collisions. Aside from the goal of traffic safety, the secondary goal of the project is to encourage people to use alternative modes to school, like walking or biking, rather than automobiles. 

The following are answers to frequently asked questions about the proposed pilot.

2021 Annual Automated Traffic Safety Camera Report

Per RCW 46.63.170 cities using automated traffic safety cameras must post an annual report of the number of traffic accidents that occurred at each location, as well as the number of notices of infraction issued for each camera on the city’s website. 

The below data comprises the number of accidents and notices of infraction issued at each respective school zone where traffic safety cameras are deployed.


   School Zone     Collisions  
  13900 - 14200 Blk 132nd Ave NE   0
  12600 - 13100 Blk NE 80th St   1


  Location     Number of Citations Issued  
  NB 132nd Ave NE     3,704
  SB 132nd Ave NE   6,684
  EB NE 80th St   2,017
  WB NE 80th St   1,441


The traffic safety camera program was shut down in March of 2020 as schools transitioned to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The program was re-activated in February 2021 when schools returned to in person learning.   The City of Kirkland communicated to the community that the cameras would be re-activated by posting additional signage in the zones two weeks prior to activation and also posted the information on social media.  The average number of citations issued per zone per day dropped from a high of 35.58 in February 2021 to a low of 19.19 in December of 2021, showing promise that the school safety zone camera program is being effective in reducing the number of speeding vehicles in these locations.

The average number of citations issued per zone, per day, continues to go down, showing promise that the school safety zone camera program is being effective in reducing the number of speeding vehicles in these locations

February 2021:  35.58 average citations per zone, per day 
March 2021: 29.44 average citations per zone, per day
April 2021:  27.46 average citations per zone, per day
May 2021:  30.28 average citations per zone, per day
June 2021:  27.21 average citations per zone, per day
September 2021:  26.95 average citations per zone, per day
October 2021:  23.15 average citations per zone, per day
November 2021:  19.63 average citations per zone, per day
December 2021: 19.19 average citations per zone, per day


Why were the locations at John Muir Elementary/Kamiakin Middle School, and Rose Hill chosen for the pilot?

The two pilot locations were chosen based on information regarding traffic volumes, speed data and feedback from traffic enforcement officers. Based on the data, two schools were recommended as sites for automated traffic safety cameras – John Muir Elementary/Kamiakin Middle School and Rose Hill Elementary. These two locations had the highest traffic volumes and incidents of excessive speed. A second study was conducted in May by an outside consultant that was specifically focused on the time periods before and after school hours when speed restrictions are in place. Over the two study days (May 3 and May 8), 81% of drivers in Rose Hill Elementary study-drivers exceeded the 20-mph speed limit and, of those, 34% exceeded 25 mph in the school zone. At John Muir Elementary, where overall traffic volumes are higher, 81% of drivers exceeded the 20-mph speed limit and 47% of those exceeded 25 mph in the school zone.

The John Muir Elementary/Kamiakin Middle School northbound camera is located at 13900 132nd Ave. N.E., with the southbound camera positioned at 14238 132nd Avenue N.E. The Rose Hill Elementary School eastbound camera is located at 12648 N.E. 80th Street, and the westbound camera is at 13110 N.E. 80th Street.

What times will the cameras be enforcing the speed limit?

Photo enforcement cameras will operate 30 minutes before and after the start of school and 30 minutes before and after the end of school (based on individual school start and stop times). Cameras near John Muir Elementary and Kamiakan Middle School will overlap to allow enforcement consistent with each school’s start and stop times.

Will drivers be warned of speed photo enforcement?

In addition to a public outreach campaign, the City shall clearly mark all locations where automated traffic safety cameras are in use by placing signs in locations that clearly indicate to the driver that he or she is entering a zone where traffic laws are enforced by an automated traffic safety camera.

How much will the fines be?

Council has established the fine for exceeding the school zone speed limit (20 mph) for speeds over 25 mph at $136 per incident. Additionally, a graduated fine has been established for speeds over 30 mph at $250 per incident.

What if the driver is not the vehicle owner?

The registered owner would need to state, under oath, in a written statement to the court or in testimony before the court that the vehicle involved was, at the time, stolen or in the care, custody, or control of some person other than the registered owner.

Will buses and City vehicles be subject to fines?

All vehicles, including City vehicles and buses, would be subject to infractions.

How much does the program cost?

The cost of each camera with installation is estimated at $120,000 which is amortized over the 5-year contract period. The contract includes a provision for early contract termination that provides for a recalculation of the payments needed to fulfill the City’s obligation.

How will fines collected from infractions be used? What percentage of fines does the speed camera vendor receive?

State law does not allow speed camera vendors to get a share of the fines. The City will pay a flat amount per month per camera for the lease of the equipment. The fines will go 100% to the City. That revenue will go first to covering the cost of the enforcement program.

Any revenue in excess of the cost of program will go to costs associated with traffic safety personnel and projects in the Transportation Capital Improvement Plan, Neighborhood Safety Program, and Safer Routes to School Action Plans that improve school safety and pedestrian and bicycle safety, including but not limited to, sidewalks, crosswalk improvements, lighting, rapid flashing beacons, bicycle facilities, trails and signage.

Why doesn't the city do more school zone speed emphasis patrols with police officers?

The Police Department does conduct school zone emphasis patrols and will continue to do so even when cameras are implemented. There are 19 public schools in Kirkland, all of which have problems with speeding to some degree. Kirkland Police have a dedicated traffic enforcement unit who are assigned in the morning and afternoon to school zone safety. At full strength the unit has 5 officers available for school zone emphasis patrols. Unfortunately the unit cannot cover all 19 school zones, and when an officer is writing a citation for one offender they are not able to deal with others.

In addition, these officers can often be called away to more urgent 911 calls. Adding more dedicated traffic officers would be difficult to sustain financially. New officers also take a long time to recruit and train. Cities nationwide struggle to find qualified applicants for police positions. Our police strategic plan recommends using technology to expand officer capacity. The school zone speed cameras do not replace officers, but supplement their efforts so that more school zones have regular speed enforcement. As proven in other jurisdictions, cameras cover their own cost through the fines paid while increasing compliance and safety.

The Council has directed that any revenues beyond operating costs be dedicated to traffic safety and school safety projects and cannot be used be used for other purposes. This restricted use of the funds is included in the adopted ordinance. The pilot project starts at two schools with high volumes and persistent speeding problems. If successful at increasing safety by reducing speeding, use of cameras can be extended to other school zones, enabling officers to more frequently do speed emphasis patrols at other sites.