CONYERS — Drivers along Pine Log Road are on notice that their speed will soon be detected electronically.
During its meeting June meeting, the Conyers City Council approved an ordinance that allows for electronic surveillance of speed in school zones within the city limits. The top priority for Conyers Police Chief Gene Wilson is the school zone along Pine Log Road near Rockdale County High School, C.J. Hicks Elementary School and the Rockdale Magnet School.
“In the past year, there have been 17 accidents, four of which involved injuries,” the chief told council members. “To me, that indicates too much speed.”
Wilson said Pine Log Road is difficult to patrol for speed due to visibility. Furthermore, he explained that the narrow two-lane road is dangerous, especially when people turn from Ga. Highway 138 at a high rate of speed. The sidewalks are just a few feet from the roadway, meaning a collision could easily propel a vehicle onto the sidewalk where people — very often, school children — are walking.
Wilson and the CPD proposed the city enact an ordinance that would allow the use of automated traffic enforcement in school zones within the city limits. The chief explained that unlike red light cameras that many jurisdictions tried — and many ultimately removed — this ordinance is in alignment with state law. He pointed to O.C.G.A. Section 40-14-18 that was enacted in 2018 and permits local jurisdictions to establish an automated traffic enforcement safety device program in school zones.
Wilson recommended the city enter into a contract with RedSpeed USA, a company that currently works with several jurisdictions in Georgia for this purpose.
The way it would work is the company would install, maintain and operate the single pole that includes high-definition video cameras, live video streaming and a license plate reader. The equipment would record speed only when school is in session, beginning one hour before classes begin and ending one hour after. The owner of any vehicle detected going 10 mph or more over the posted speed limit would receive a civil citation that had been verified by a CPD officer. The violator be fined $75 for the first violation and $125 for any subsequent violation.
There would be no cost to the city. The company retains 35% of all fines collected and the city retains 65%. The chief said he would like to use those funds for education-related purposes.
Wilson told the council the citations are civil only and therefore do not impact insurance rates or count as points against a driver’s license.
Councilman John Fountain said he is likes the new technology but was concerned that the residents along Pine Log Road had not been advised prior to the ordinance being brought before the City Council
Chief Wilson said the residents along Pine Log Road are very aware that is a school zone and would likely be in favor of any efforts to slow down drivers. He said that RedSpeed conducted its own traffic study along that road while school was in session. Over a nine hour period — spanning the time one hour before classes began to one hour after they concluded — 437 people were detected driving at least 11 mph over the posted speed limit.
“We have an obligation to make our community safe any way possible,” Wilson said.
Councilman Cleveland Stroud agreed, stressing this is a public safety issue and the city cannot afford to wait to do something until after a tragedy occurs.
“There are more than 2,000 students and probably 1,000 to 1,200 of them ride in automobiles,” Stroud said. “They should have as much say-so as the people who live there.”
Chief Wilson said that once the City Council approved the ordinance and then the contract with RedSpeed, it would take until close to the beginning of the school year to get the equipment up and running. In the interim, members of the Police Department would reach out to the community to advise and educate them about the new technology.
Only warnings would be issued within the first 30 days the equipment is operational.