Lights, Cameras , Money! School Zone Speed Limit Update

by Challenger Staff Writer

When  community activist Tina Sanders was driving down Genesee near Foreman  one day last month she was pulled over by the police for speeding in a school zone.

The former candidate for The Fillmore District  council seat  was shocked. She didn’t see any 15 mph speed zone signs and she didn’t see any school. Just a police car stationed  in the heart of the community  giving out tickets.

She was advised  that the Mosque located in that area housed a school but she had no knowledge of that prior to being stopped.

Then she was handed a ticket for $450!

“I went downtown to the Parking violation Bureau  Room 115 . They handed me a paper to take home in order to take a  driving  course on line. That cost me $37. I was also told if I pleaded not guilty, I could be fined double  the amount  of the ticket but if I took the plea it would  just be the $450 and no points on my license. Going before a prosecutor she advised  could also result in having  six points on my license and possibly 15 days in jail.”

About a week after taking the on-line course she received a certificate  in the mail and  took it back downtown. “That’s when I was told I had 30 days to pay the ticket.   So what good was taking and passing the online driving course? I was upset until  I found out the woman standing next to ne had a ticket for $750.”

Tina recalled the long lines at the bureau that  day.  Everybody’s  amount was different.   “I thought to myself, ‘this is sad   this is wrong. ‘   This new speed law  was poorly  executed and put into place  by elected officials without considering the people they serve.“

“I understand the importance of safety for our kids,” she continued. “We  all want that…but they’re making money off the backs of people who can’t afford it.”

For the Children or For the Money?

Many people had no idea what was going on until they received a “warning letter” of a potential pending fine  from  Speed Monitoring Violations,   complete with a photo of their car rolling down the street.   

 Despite  lawmakers insistence that the school zone speed cameras do not represent a money grab for the city, money has taken precedence over the safety issue because of the way  the initiative has been implemented and the lack of transparency. Consider a published report in the Feb. 4 Buffalo News which cited “city officials” who indicated that on any given day during the warning period   the cameras captured more than 10,000 images of drivers speeding  and had they been issuing fines over the course of the warning period it would have generated $8 million in revenue. The vendors of the cameras didn’t charge the city for installation, but will collect $14 of every $50 ticket.

 Here is what we have  learned:

•14 of the 20 school zone speed cameras purchased by the city have been installed   in these locations so far.

*1087 Jefferson Ave. near Makowski School

*1132 Jefferson Ave. near Makowski

*1177 Delaware Ave. near  Canisius High

*1236 Delaware Ave. near Canisius

*3125 Bailey Ave. near Westminster  Charter

*3130 Bailey near Westminster

*295 Suffolk St. near Olmsted 156

*302 Suffolk near Olmsted

*267 Porter Ave. near D’Youville 

*1463 Elmwood near McKinley

*311 Military Rd. West Hertel Academy

*522 Military Rd near Grabiarz School

*694 Kensington nr. Schoool 61

*255 S. Elmwood near Hutch Tech

•Currently flashing lights are being installed  and tested on all 14 cameras for additional warning   to drivers of the speed limit. If there are no flashing lights the cameras are not active. University Council Member Rasheed  N.C. Wyatt admits that the flashing lights should have been rolled out initially, making it easier for people to be aware   and respectful of the initiative.

•Speed Camera Violations cannot be issued for speeds under 26 mph. Anything over 26 mph is subject to a $50 fine.

•However Police Officers   can issue violations in school zones  for speeds 16 mph and above, treat them  as  moving violations, points will go on your license and your insurance will go up. The fines ae also extremely  high i.e. $350/$450 . (Why are  the police officers posted in some areas where their fines are way  higher than the cameras, when this is supposed to be a speed zone camera  initiative? We have been  advised that once all the cameras have flashing  lights working that should eliminate police officer violations. Citizens should demand that it does.)

Council Member Wyatt is currently trying to get a resolution passed to change the enforcement times and make them consistent across the  city so that drivers are only subject to speeding tickets between 7a.m. and 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.  and 4:40 p.m. instead of the current 7:30 a.m. to  4:30 p.m.

He has also suggested possibly increasing the speed limit to 20 mph. and believes the city needs to be “more uniform” in terms of where the signs are placed.   

-Public Trust- 

“We’ve got to get the public trust now,” Council Member Wyatt told The Challenger. “ We’ve got to make it fair for the people we were elected to serve. I want them to trust that we are trying to make the right decisions…..I just want people to think about the safety of our children.”

But the process, he continued  has to be made fair. 

Despite  the glitches, people are  complying  more and more every daywith the school zone speed limit  he noted.

“I just want them to understand  that we are trying to make the right decisions (as their elected officials),” he said. “A  $400 ticket  could cripple a family. We’re not trying to cripple people. We are not trying to make poor people poorer.”

The community is encouraged to attend next  Tuesday’s  Council meeting  at 1p.m. in City Hall where Councilman Wyatt’s  most recent resolution to change enforcement of the speed limit  to take place during school  arrival and dismissal times only, will be discussed. Citizens are also urged to voice their opinion 
(Story Image Makowski School at Jefferson & Best. Challenger Photo)