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Seattle man beats speeding ticket over little known rule

Under the regulations for photo enforcement, the camera speed zone must have a yellow crosswalk sign. (KIRO 7)
LISTEN: Seattle man beats speeding ticket over little known rule

A Seattle man who fought a school zone speeding ticket won his case because there were too many signs with too many words.

It’s a common tale of traffic woe — a driver challenges the court over a speeding ticket. This time, however, Seattle’s Jason Canfield beat the system. A judge tossed out a $234 citation he received for going 28 mph in a 20 mph zone on Delridge Way Southwest. The main reason is because the city placed too many signs detailing rules around the traffic camera.

RELATED: Seattle lowers speed limits around town

“What I had argued (in court) was that in order to slow down to 20 mph you need enough notification or warning that the speed limit is dropping,” Canfield told The Dori Monson Show. “At the time I remember seeing the flashing lights and going, ‘Oh wow, the speed limit is changing.’ I was slowing down the whole time. If you look at the video from the infraction my brake lights were on the whole time. But I wasn’t able to slow down enough before having my photo taken.”

Fighting a Seattle speeding ticket

The school zone on Delridge Way has flashing lights, a 20 mph speed limit sign, another sign to clarify that it applies “when children are present,” and then another sign to further clarify that it also applies when the lights are flashing, and another sign indicating it is “photo enforced.” Canfield received the ticket in May 2016. He was driving along the normally 35 mph road when he saw the flashing lights. It happened at 9:14 a.m., shortly before the start of the school day at nearby Louisa Boren STEM K-8 school.

“Until I saw that sign, it was impossible for me to slow down in time,” Canfield said. “There is a perception-reaction time … that’s 2.5 seconds. At 35 miles per hour, you’ve already gone way farther than the sign by the time you are hitting the brakes.”

Canfield opted to fight the citation and to his expense. He estimates that he spent about $800 to get his $234 speeding ticket dropped.

“I started doing some research, and found a couple of other cases going on … I spent a lot of time researching and a lot of time looking at court documents and the manual for uniform traffic control devices,” he said, noting that there is a national recommendation that warning signage should be posted before the traffic cameras. But the city argued that it didn’t have to follow that recommendation, Canfield said. Not so, according to him.

“On one hand they are saying, ‘We want kids to be safe,’ and on the other they are saying they don’t have to follow recommendations – ignoring the fact that they are actually required by law to follow these recommendations,” he said. “You can’t have both — protect kids and generate revenue as your goal. Pick one or the other.”

Seattle has installed speed cameras around 14 schools since 2012.

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