‘Speeding is getting to be a bigger concern’: Auburn’s school zone traffic cameras return

Mar 22, 2022, 5:38 AM | Updated: 9:39 am

Auburn school cameras...

New traffic cameras in Auburn. (Chris Sullivan, KIRO Newsradio)

(Chris Sullivan, KIRO Newsradio)

After being removed eight years ago, speed cameras will be back this fall in school zones in Auburn.

Auburn had red light cameras and school zone cameras for eight years, but the city eliminated them in 2014. There was concern over whether they were providing enough money for the city, and whether they were actually reducing crashes.

Public Works Director Ingrid Gaub said the public liked the school zone cameras, and they appeared to work, cutting the tickets from 8,800 a year when they started to about 4,000 a year when they were pulled.

But the speeding is back.

“We are seeing that speeding is getting to be a bigger and bigger concern. Looking at photo enforcement and a way to actually do that enforcement, hopefully, will encourage that compliance so people will slow down, pay more attention when they are driving, and improve safety out there for everybody,” Gaub said.

Auburn did a two-day study earlier this year to track speeding. They sat at 18-20 school zones when the flashers were activated. What the city found was somewhat surprising.

“We saw over 5,000 people that drove faster than 26 miles an hour through that school zone during that time that the flashers were active,” Gaub said.

The speed limit is 20 miles per hour in active school zones.

So why the return to photo enforcement? The city just doesn’t have enough officers to change that behavior.

“That’s not something that our three or four traffic officers can enforce and actually get some better compliance because they can only be at one location at a time,” Gaub said.

The city council just approved a five-year contract to install and operate school zone cameras. Gaub said they will install between six and 12 cameras, which means they will likely be outside six to nine schools.

Over the next few months, the city will decide which schools will get the cameras.

“Some of the locations we had about 9% of the traffic driving at that 26 miles an hour and over, but at others, we were up to 45% of the traffic, so those with higher percentages are going to be some of those we’ll probably be looking at doing first,” Gaub said.

The city will look at the speeding behavior, how many kids are walking to school, and other factors in making the decisions.

Once the cameras are installed and active, the city will keep a close eye on the data to see if they are working.

“We are definitely going to be evaluating as we go and looking at whether or not we need to move locations, change locations as we go through and do the program,” she said. “As we get better compliance at one location, it may make sense at some point to take that camera from that location and put it at another school where maybe we’re not getting as good of compliance any longer.”

Gaub knows there are people who believe this is just a money grab for the city, but she said her motive is simply safety.

“That is the sole goal of what we’re trying to do with photo enforcement in Auburn: get better compliance from the drivers and slow them down,” she said.

Once the cameras are active in the fall, there will be a month of warnings before the $200 tickets are sent out. These warnings will be treated like parking tickets and will not go on your driving record.

The cameras will only be active when the school zone flashers are on.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


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