Traffic Q&A: School zone cameras catch only bad guys, Tacoma Police assure

Staff writerFebruary 3, 2014 

Question: I have a question about the school zone speeding cameras that were installed in Tacoma last month.

Frequently I drive past a school when the flashing lights are in operation. I’m driving in the right lane at 20 mph, but cars are passing me in the left lane without any slowing.

My question: Will the camera record only the cars speeding? Or will I, traveling at 20 mph, also be photographed and sent a ticket? How does the camera determine which car is speeding?

Obviously, I don’t want a ticket and to have to pay $124 when the one speeding is not me. If I received a ticket under these circumstances, how could I prove I was not speeding? — Pamelia Olson, Tacoma

Answer: Loretta Cool, public information officer at the Tacoma Police Department, says you don’t have to worry. She insists the equipment is designed to tell the good guys from the bad guys and is nearly infallible.

If the detection system involved only radar, there would be legitimate cause for concern, she said, since the radar would not be capable of distinguishing individual vehicles.

To solve that problem, Cool said, the radar works in conjunction with a video camera, triggered by excess speed.

“If two vehicles are in the detection zone, only the vehicle speeding is cited,” Cool said.

Furthermore, she said, each ticket is reviewed six times by the contractor before it is sent to the TPD for final approval.

“There is very little chance of sending a ticket to the wrong violator,” she said.

If you still have doubts, Cool said, you can replay the situation yourself on your computer.

“When a violator receives a ticket, they also get an Internet link where they can go and view video of the violation,” Cool said. “They have the right to take it to court and contest the violation.”

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693
rob.carson@thenewstribune

Send questions to traffic@thenewstribune.com. Include your name, hometown and daytime telephone number.

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