Student safety is not exclusive to the school campus. Equally as important is ensuring that children, many of whom walk and ride their bicycles, are protected during their journey to and from school. House Bill 657, passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, strengthens safety efforts for children within designated school zones.
Too often, the safety of students while traveling to and from school is compromised by distracted and reckless drivers who carelessly speed through a school zone. While signage and flashing beacons alert drivers and law enforcement engages targeted enforcement, the authorization of speed detection systems or speed cameras under the new law will substantially improve efforts to slow motorists and protect children within school zones.
There is no denying the critical importance of ensuring the safety of our young school-age children. The high foot traffic and increased vulnerability within school zones require our utmost attention and heightened efforts to minimize potential accidents and injuries. Introducing speed cameras in these areas will undoubtedly propel efforts toward achieving our goal.
These school zone speed cameras will be a tremendous asset for law enforcement’s overall focus on school zone safety. The cameras do not require an on-duty deputy, which promotes a more efficient deployment of human resources and allows for greater law enforcement coverage within Hillsborough County.
Drivers should know that these cameras are an ever-vigilant deterrent, capturing violations during the school zone periods and are not affected by environmental conditions. They hold drivers accountable, can lead to fines of $100 or more for violations and will proactively prevent senseless harm to our children.
Critics will argue these cameras are big government that will result in an infringement of rights. They will say that this is a revenue-generating scheme to grow the government further. They could not be more incorrect in their assessment.
First, the cameras are limited to only school zones and target drivers traveling 10 mph or more over the posted speed limit. Second, the fines and fees from these cameras must go toward school crossing guards and improved pedestrian safety measures.
As the Tampa Bay Times outlined, Tampa Bay is the fourth-deadliest metro area in the country for pedestrians. That fact alone is why our community should rally around using technology to further protect our children.
Public safety is always at the forefront of our mission, and school zone speed enforcement cameras are an innovative and efficient use of technology that will correct driving behaviors and enhance safety for some of our most critical pedestrian corridors. Working with County Administrator Bonnie Wise and the board of county commissioners, it is my hope to expedite the administrative process to implement school zone speed enforcement cameras as soon as possible. Because one child injured or killed is one too many.
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Chad Chronister is the sheriff of Hillsborough County.