School zone speed cameras activated across Coastal Empire

Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 5:46 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Kids are heading back to school, but their return impacts all drivers. That’s because multiple municipalities in the area are activating school zone speed cameras.

But the rules aren’t the same from city to city, and some people are not happy about the cameras near them. WTOC Investigates found these cameras do reduce speeding. They’re also big money-makers for departments and for the company that sets them up.

The cameras have people in our area talking. Nancy Davila and Naneki Garcia were both caught speeding on Whitemarsh Island by cameras the Chatham County Police Department set up last year.

“I do believe it’s a trick. I think it’s a scam,” Davila said.

“I just have never seen any kids walking around,” Garcia added.

The Chatham County Police Department activated cameras last fall at several schools in unincorporated Chatham County. Less than a year later, county records show the cameras have brought in $2,095,414.62 across six school zones.

One of the busiest cameras is off Highway 80 on Whitemarsh Island, near Coastal Middle School and Marshpoint Elementary. Some drivers feel it’s a speed trap, since the camera is placed on a busy road near the schools, but not right in front of them.

“I understand school zones, definitely protect your kids. But I don’t see them. I don’t know. It’s very frustrating,” Garcia said.

Davila got two speeding tickets there. She says it’s hard to tell when they’re on, and how fast you can go.

“I really think they need to be smarter about making the signs clearer.”

We counted 18 different school zones with speed cameras across Chatham, Effingham, and Bryan County. The speed limits - hours of operation - and fines vary across these school zones. But they all have one thing in common: they are maintained by Blue Line Solutions, a speed enforcement company based out of Tennessee.

Blue line sets-up the cameras at no cost to taxpayers, but they also get a cut of the proceeds. Blue Line Solutions gets 35 percent of the proceeds from fines collected in each municipality outside of Chatham County. The Chatham County Police department tells WTOC its agreement allocates 32.5 percent from each ticket to Blue Line.

County records show last year, Blue Line pulled in more than $170,000 in Effingham County and more than $700,000 from its cameras in Chatham County. Records from the city of Bloomingdale show the company has made more than $240,000 from its cameras there since they were installed in March 2020.

Trish Holt used to drive by the camera next to Bloomingdale Elementary on her way to work. She quit driving that way after she got her second ticket.

“There is so much that is written on one itty-bitty sign, that I had to pull over and stop to read it all,” Holt said.

We found that sign meets state requirements. Still, Holt insists there was no way she could read it all while driving.

“It’s very frustrating, because I agree with the law. And if I understood what I needed to do, and when I needed to do it, I most certainly would.”

Holt lives in Effingham County. She feels the signs for their school zone speed cameras are marked more clearly. Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie says, setting up the cameras was a win-win for them.

“Basically, it’s a deputy in a school zone that we don’t have to pay for,” McDuffie said.

Sheriff McDuffie says the cameras save taxpayers money and help keep kids safe. He says a lot of the people who get tickets are surprised, because they think the cameras are only active during pick-up and drop-off. That’s not the case in Effingham County.

“That is a school zone all day long with kids are in that school,” McDuffie added.

While the cameras upset some drivers, others admit they are effective. Jenni Taylor also got caught speeding on Whitemarsh Island.

“I’ve gotten caught before, so I now follow the speed limit in a school zone,” Taylor said.

Police say the data shows these speed cameras do make people slow down. Speed studies show the cameras set up by Blue Line Solutions have reduced speeding as much as 93% in Chatham County, 94% in Effingham, and 95% in Richmond Hill.

Here’s a look at some of the key details about these different school zone speed cameras, broken down by municipality:

Unincorporated Chatham County

Speed camera zones: 6

Locations: Isle of Hope K-8, Georgetown K-8, May Howard Elementary, Coastal Middle and Marshpoint Elementary, and St. Andrews School.

Speed to get a ticket: 11 mph over listed speed limit at time of ticket.

Times cameras are active: One hour before start of school through one hour after school lets out.

Fines: $100 first offense, $150 for following offenses.

Effingham County

Speed camera zones: 9

Locations: Blandford Elementary, Marlow Elementary, South Effingham Elementary, South Effingham Middle/High, Effingham County MS/HS (SR 119) and Ebenezer ES/MS on Ebenezer Rd. and Sand Hill Elementary School.

Speed to get a ticket: 11 mph over listed speed limit at time of ticket.

Times cameras are active: Active at all times throughout the school year; 25 mph during school hours/35 mph outside of school hours.

Fines: $100 first offense, $125 for following offenses.

Bloomingdale

Speed camera zones: 1

Locations: Bloomingdale Elementary School

Speed to get a ticket: 11 mph over listed speed limit at time of ticket.

Times cameras are active: Monday through Friday during school year, 8:15 a.m.-9:15 a.m., 3:15 p.m.-4:15 p.m., drivers must go 25 mph. Speed limit is 35 mph the rest of the school day.

Fines: $100 first offense, $150 for following offenses.

Guyton

Speed camera zones: 1

Locations: Guyton Elementary School

Speed to get a ticket: 11 mph over listed speed limit at time of ticket (35 mph at all times).

Times cameras are active: One hour before start of school through one hour after school lets out.

Fines: $100 first offense, $150 for following offenses.

Richmond Hill

Speed camera zones: 1

Locations: Richmond Hill High School

Speed to get a ticket: 11 mph over listed speed limit at time of ticket.

Times cameras are active: Monday through Friday during school year, 6:45 a.m.-3 p.m.

Fines: $100 first offense, $150 for following offenses.

The city of Port Wentworth used to have a speed camera in front of its elementary school, but it has since been shut off due to the school closing.

Copyright 2022 WTOC. All rights reserved.