The Gist:

A new proposal suggests installing traffic cameras to enforce speeding in school zones.
The cameras could cover North Springs High School, Riverwood International Charter School and Dunwoody Springs Elementary School.
Fines would start at $75 and could be contested.

Sandy Springs residents could start getting $75 tickets for speeding in school zones if a new traffic camera proposal moves forward. 

Sandy Springs Police Department Capt. Michael Lindstrom presented the proposal to City Council during its Dec. 7 work session. 

Lindstrom suggested installing traffic cameras near North Springs High School, Riverwood International Charter School and Dunwoody Springs Elementary School. He said those would be the “best areas to start our project.”

Mayor Rusty Paul asked the police captain to confirm the purpose of the traffic cameras.

“If we never collect a fine, but we have a safer school zone … we’ve actually accomplished our objective, correct?” Paul asked Lindstrom.

“That’s the 100 percent goal, to make the schools safe,” Lindstrom said.

Paul raised the question in response to email messages he said he received.

Tochie Blad, who served on the city’s 2021 Charter Review Commission and ran for the District 4 City Council seat in the November election, was one of the people who emailed the mayor.

“In the middle of a pandemic with folks still struggling with economic loss, you plan to hit them up with $75 tickets and take a 64% cut? This is not right,” Blad said in the email.

She said Sandy Springs became a city to improve its residents’ lives, and speed cameras do not meet the charter’s goals.

School approval is currently required to install traffic cameras in school zones. But Lindstrom said the Georgia General Assembly is expected to consider a bill that would remove that requirement, allowing cities and counties to install traffic cameras outside any school.

If approved, Sandy Springs would contract with Red Speed Georgia to install and maintain the traffic cameras. The private company would get 36% of the money paid in fines. A first offense for speeding would cost $75, with any additional offenses costs $125 each.

“They have two people that verify that information in house, and then they send it to our people in the police department to also review the validation before any citation is even issued,” Lindstrom said.

As a civil case, no points would be added to a motorist’s driver’s license.

“There’s no insurance implications. And it doesn’t affect people’s driver’s records,” Lindstrom said.

Under Georgia law, all proceeds of fines collected must be used to support local policing initiatives, he said.

Additional signage would be posted to clearly mark the school zones with traffic camera coverage, starting 500 feet from the camera’s location.

The cameras would record 24 hours a day, but enforcement of the speed limit would only be during school hours. 

Drivers would have the right to contest a citation through an administrative hearing in Sandy Springs Municipal Court. They would have 35 days to pay the fine or contest the citation. After a third notice, if a driver fails to respond, it would be referred to the Department of Revenue resulting in denial of annual motor vehicle registration renewal and the ability to transfer title until the citation is resolved.

Lindstrom said other agencies who use cameras for traffic enforcement told Sandy Springs fewer than 1% of citations are contested.

Councilmember Andy Bauman asked if an alternative to fines could be set up for student drivers who may get a ticket.

City Attorney Dan Lee said as a civil matter, a diversion program has not been considered.

“Under Georgia Law … no points will be applied against the driver’s license, which is a big, big deal for young drivers,” he said.

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Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.