By John Schaffner

Responding to traffic speed data collected on Howell Mill Road, by the Wildwood neighborhood, Atlanta police issued 39 speeding tickets in early February.

Twenty-eight of the tickets were issued to drivers who live right in those area neighborhoods.

APD Zone 2 Commander Major Robert Browning and Lt. Mark Cotter, who heads up the zone’s newly formed traffic group, announced the citations as part of a presentation at the Feb. 11 meeting of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods.

Wildwood was one of the first to purchase and use one of speed-detection devices, which neighborhoods can buy through a program operated by the Buckhead Coalition. The machines flash the speed a vehicle is traveling on the road and records it for review. In its first data collection period, from Dec. 5 to Jan. 15, the Wildwood sign clocked 8,790 cars and approximately one of every 11 was traveling faster than 40 mph, or about 10 mph over the posted speed limit on the street.

During that period, the highest speed recorded was 88 mph. Three cars were clocked going faster than 80 mph.

Lt. Cotter and Major Browning said state law requires police using laser technology to allow motorists to drive 10 mph over the speed limit before issuing a ticket, except in school zones where a ticket can be issued for speeds 1 mph over the limit.

Sally Flocks, executive director of the pedestrian advocacy organization PEDS, objected during the presentation to allowing any leeway over the speed limit. She intimated she did not believe the law actually requires the 10 mph cushion. She told the group that the extra 10 mph in speed the police are allowing before ticketing drivers creates a tremendously greater danger for pedestrians and cyclists.

In addition to a presentation by Jud Ready, president of the Wildwood Civic Association, about the use of the portable radar speed data collection apparatus, North Buckhead Civic Association President Gordon Certain reported on benefits from the fixed installation of one of the devices on a pole on Wieuca Road near the new Sarah Smith Elementary School campus.

Certain reported that his data shows drivers react when seeing the speed they are traveling flashing on the sign and reduce their speed. Cotter reported that 17 speeding citations were issued on Wieuca in about a week’s time. He also reported that his traffic unit of three officers had issued 95 traffic citations in North Buckhead between Jan. 12 and Feb. 10.

Lt. Cotter said Atlanta Police had been approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation to use radar checks along Wieuca Road now that the speed limit has been set at 30 mph, except in the school zone, where the speed limit remains 25 mph.

Garth Peters, who coordinates the ‘s radar speed sign program with neighborhoods, said the coalition provides a grant of $2,300 toward the purchase of a unit by a neighborhood. The neighborhood must provide $523.

Ready said the Wildwood association ended up paying an additional $870 for an anti-theft alarm, additional memory to allow collection of data they wanted to capture, and for a posted speed limit sign to attach to the unit.