Speed cameras: Will they be effective?

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Connie Brand knows first-hand not all of the warnings that went out to drivers who sped through school zones in the City of Buffalo were legitimate. Earlier this month, the city wrapped up a 30-day warning period for its speed camera program. Mayor Byron Brown said on any given day, cameras caught 10,000 people speeding in front of schools.

Brand was one of them. There is just one problem.

“The camera captured me driving through that speed zone at 3:48 or 3:49,” Brand said.

The school zone hours at that location, in front of Canisius High School, end at 3:30 p.m. That’s when the speed limit reverts to 30 mph, and the cameras should be shut off.

“Before you make those cameras live, make sure that they’re collecting the correct data,” Brand suggested to city leaders.

As soon as the city installs flashing beacons at the locations where they’ve installed the 14 cameras, and turned those beacons on, they’ll start issuing $50 fines to drivers who have their picture taken. The camera snaps an image when it detects a vehicle going at least 26 mph in the 15 mph school zone.

Kevin Helfer, the City of Buffalo’s parking commissioner and the man who is running the speed camera program, admits Brand should not have received that warning. He said whoever programmed that camera incorrectly set it up to take pictures until 4:30, rather than 3:30. They’ve already corrected the error.

“This is all about public safety,” Helfer says, echoing comments Mayor Byron Brown has made for nearly a year now.

In Pawtucket, R.I., officials installed similar cameras in school zones. Unlike Buffalo, they also installed a small number of cameras at intersections in the city. Much like Buffalo, however, officials in Pawtucket said school safety is what’s most important.

A review of data compiled by The Valley Breeze, however, indicates driver behavior has not necessarily changed since the cameras in Pawtucket were turned on. It shows the number of violations are down one week, and up the next.

In Buffalo, Helfer expects things to be different.

“Anecdotally, I think it will drop incrementally,” Helfer said, adding that such a drop would indicate that school zones in Buffalo are getting safer. “And I do think the beacons are going to help a lot.

“A lot of this is just anecdotal. That’s why I keep telling people we have to see data over a large period of time before we can draw conclusions.”

If a camera does take your picture, that violation is supposed to be reviewed before you are sent a fine.

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