School Zone Speed Enforcement

PD School Zone (2).PNG

The City of Kirkland conducted a school zone photo enforcement pilot program to reduce speeding in school zones before and after school, beginning in September 2019. According to the National Safety Council, speeding was a factor in 29% of all traffic fatalities in 2020, killing an average of over 30 people per day. The pilot program was conducted in two school zones: John Muir Elementary/Kamiakin Middle School and Rose Hill Elementary. The City is pleased to report that the pilot was successful in lowering the percentage of cars traveling over the posted speed limit.

The City Council approved expanding the program in 2022. There were two locations added to the program for the 2022-2023 school year: Lakeview Elementary and the Finn Hill school zone along 84th Avenue NE, which covers Carl Sandberg Elementary, Finn Hill Middle School and Henry David Thoreau Elementary School. These school zones were selected due to the percentage of vehicles traveling 26 MPH and over. Additionally, the traffic volumes in these areas were the two highest of the studied school zones.  The new school zone cameras were activated in September 2023.

For Lakeview Elementary, one camera was installed westbound on NE 68th Street, and one camera was installed southbound on State Street at 7th Avenue South. The Lakeview Elementary school zone had the highest volume of vehicles during the count and the highest percentage of vehicles traveling faster than 26 MPH, at 33% of vehicles. The goal of these cameras is to increase compliance with the 20 MPH speed limit to encourage more children and parents to walk and bike to and from school.

For the Finn Hill school zone, one camera was installed on Southbound 84th Avenue NE, and one was installed northbound on 84th Avenue NE. 84th Avenue NE on Finn Hill has additional speed changes from Simonds Road NE to NE 124th Street. The Cities of Kenmore and Kirkland permanently lowering the speed limit on 84th Ave NE from 35 to 30, which became effective July 5, 2022.

The City Council directed that net revenue from this program will be reinvested into traffic safety projects and programs, including funding this program expansion.

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.

2023 number of notices of infraction issued by each camera.

Location Number of Citations Issued 2023 Total
NB 132nd Ave NE 2,736
SB 132nd Ave NE 6,286
EB NE 80th St  1,568
WB NE 80th St  1,154
 SB State St 5,259
 WB Lakeview Dr  1,400
 NB 84th Ave NE  1,270
SB 84th Ave NE  2,944

 

2023 number of traffic accidents that occurred at each location.

Location Collisions in School Zone 
12600 - 14000 Blk 84th Ave NE 1
  • In 2023, there was only one collision in the school zones with automated safety cameras.  That collision was non-injury.

 

2023 Annual School Zone Safety Cameras

2022 Annual School Zone Safety Cameras

2021 Annual School Zone Safety Camera

 

The following are answers to frequently asked questions about the program.

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.