THOMASVILLE — The city's youngest residents soon will have a new form of protection.

A radar camera system will be installed in all city school zones. The system will operate before, during and after school — a total of nine hours daily, said Police Chief Troy Rich.

"TPD's school zone safety program is a cutting-edge program that will automatically enforce existing school zone speed limits. Our No. 1 goal with this program is to reduce speeding vehicles in our school zones and protect our children,” said Rich. “In addition to protecting school zones from speeding vehicles, the program will also notify TPD if dangerous offenders or those with temporary protection orders enter school zones.”  

The program, to be implemented by RedSpeed, will include new signs and detection cameras to be placed in key school zones. 

The system will determine speeds of vehicles in school zones, as well as capture vehicle tag information. The information will be entered into the Georgia Crime Information Center, which will identify the registered owner of the vehicle.

If a vehicle exceeds the school zone speed limit, the police department will be notified. A sworn officer will review the video to ensure it is accurate. If it is correct, RedSpeed, which has about 20 systems in Georgia, will notify the registered owner of the vehicle by mail about the speeding offense.

If the offense is contested, the case will go to Thomasville Municipal Court, and the judge will rule on the case.

Rich said 35 percent of the fines — which are set by legislation — generated from the system will go to RedSpeed. 

The fine for a first offense of speeding in a school zone is $75 and $125 for the second offense. The fines are half of regular speeding fines — an amount dictated by legislation for speeders detected by a radar camera system.

The speed in school zones is 25 miles per hour. Rich said the law requires 11 miles above the school speed limit to be allowed.

If a violator does not pay the fine, the owner of the vehicle will not be able to register the vehicle until the fine is paid.

The system will operate one hour before school, during school hours and one hour after school.

"This is all about school safety, slowing people down," Rich said.

Th system will go into effect in 30 to 45 days. A 30-day blitz of warnings will be done through the news media and social media.

Rich hopes the system will reduce city school zone speeding by half to two-thirds.

The first locations to receive school zone safety programs will be Harper Elementary, Thomasville High and Jerger Elementary schools, according to Rich. 

“In preliminary traffic studies, these three schools together saw more than 1,000 drivers more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit on a single school day," he said.

Rich said a speeding stop in a school zone takes about 15 minutes. The radar camera system will free up time for officers to patrol city streets.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820 

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