speed cameras

Officer Charlie Wichman and Police Chief Chris Wright monitor the school zone at Hwy. 84 and County Farm Road.

The Pierce County Board of Education approved a traffic study for the U.S. Highway 84/County Farm Road school zone even as Blackshear officials are still waiting to hear a final recommendation from Department of Transportation officials for the intersection.

That’s where long-time firefighter Johnnie Anderson was struck while directing school traffic last month. No word from DOT hasn’t stopped local officials from actively pursuing other potential safety fixes for the area.

Anderson continues to slowly recover from his injuries and is undergoing rehabilitation. Doctors have reportedly begun discussing tentative dates for Anderson’s release to come home to Blackshear.

Police Chief Chris Wright advised the city council of two of those possible solutions at a work session Monday night and presented one to the school board Monday evening.  

One possible solution involves the “Red Speed School Zone Safety Program.”

The program will allow the city to install highly specialized, precision type speed zone cameras on that section of Hwy. 84 — a provision now allowed by state law in school zones. DOT officials suggested the city consider installing the cameras at a meeting several weeks ago.

The cameras would clock motorists’ speed during school zone hours, take a photo of their license plate, and issue a ticket if needed. All citations would be processed through municipal court as a civil case.

The cost of the cameras and the study will be violator funded. The city would receive 65 percent of the fines from citations and the camera service provider would receive 35 percent for providing the service and conducting the study.

State law requires Board of Education approval for the school zone speed detection cameras. The school board unanimously approved the request Monday night.

“When we went to Atlanta we were asking GDOT to do things, and they at the same time were asking us to do things, too — making recommendations to us,” Wright says.

“I feel like it’s important for us to do what we can, or at least look at it, if we’re going to expect them to do what we think they should do.”

The law, passed by state legislators last year, requires a safety study of the zone be conducted before cameras can be installed. Wright informed council members the company who contracts this service will conduct the study for free, and recommended the city move forward with the study.

“At least we’re going to get some good data as to how many folks are speeding through the school zone,” Wright says.

Wright also pointed to added benefits of the cameras for investigative purposes.

1. The system will notify a School Resource Officer within four seconds if someone associated with murder, child molestation or who is a registered sex offender enters the school zone.

2. The system records continuously and stores the data for up to 30 days. Wright says that data may be helpful in other city investigations.

In the second option, Wright is researching annexation of an additional section of Hwy. 84, which would extend the city limits at least another 600 feet towards Patterson.

Moving the city limits would give Blackshear Police Department more of a buffer for enforcing the speed limit through the school zone, Wright says.

The annexation would be for roadway only, but it would require General Assembly approval since it’s on a state route.

Wright told council members he’s reviewing police and fire call data for that area, but is still weighing the pros and cons of annexation.

“I want to do a couple more studies on some things and see whether it’s beneficial or not,” Wright says.

DOT officials agreed to give their final recommendation for the intersection by Monday, May 6. As of Monday evening city officials had received no word from the state yet.

“We were going to give them through the end of today and then we’ll make contact with them,” Grissom told council members.