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The Thomasville Police Department has announced a new initiative that is targeted at making school zones safer for our community’s youngest citizens. TPD’s School Zone Safety Program, a comprehensive program aimed at protecting students in school zones and making schools safer, was announced today by Chief Troy Rich. Chief Rich said this cutting-edge program will automatically enforce existing school zone speed limits.

“Our number one goal with this program is to reduce speeding vehicles in our school zones and protect our children,” said Chief Rich. “In addition to protecting school zones from speeding vehicles, the program will also notify TPD if dangerous offenders or those with Temporary Protection Orders enter school zones.”

The School Zone Safety Program, to be implemented by RedSpeed, will include additional signage and detection cameras to be placed in key school zones in our community. The initiative follows on the heels of a spike in pedestrian fatalities nationwide and traffic studies showing thousands of speeders in area school zones each day. The Governor's Highway Safety Association has reported that even as cars have become safer, pedestrian fatalities have spiked 35% from a decade ago. “Two of the most common culprits for these types of accidents are high speeds and distracted drivers,” said Chief Rich. He continued, adding that reductions in speed of just five miles per hour (from 30 to 25, for example) increase survival rates of pedestrians struck by a vehicle by more than 70%. “With increased signage and stricter speed enforcement, we hope that drivers will be encouraged to slow down and pay attention.”

In addition to speed enforcement, the School Zone Safety Program will provide police with real-time, high definition traffic monitoring that also alerts TPD to known dangers entering the school zone, such as dangerous individuals and those with Temporary Protection Orders. “The system will also help alert TPD officers monitoring traffic in the event of emergencies, such as Amber Alerts,” he said.

Chief Rich said that the most common complaint received by their agency is reports of speeding vehicles. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the capacity to respond to all speeding complaints that we receive,” he said. “An additional benefit of the School Zone Safety Program is that this new initiative will allow our officers to focus speeding issues within other areas of our community during school hours. It will also allow our officers to participate in other activities within our community.”

Thomasville’s program will only operate in areas with a demonstrable safety need, with locations approved by the Thomasville City School System and the Department of Transportation. “The first locations to receive School Zone Safety Programs will be Harper Elementary School, Thomasville High School and Jerger Elementary School,” said Chief Rich. “In preliminary traffic studies, these three schools together saw more than one thousand drivers more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit on a single school day.” With the addition of new signage and the new cameras, Chief Rich said that this number is expected to drop dramatically.

Once the signage and cameras are installed and go live, there will be a warning period during which citations will be limited to warnings only. “After the warning period, citations will be generated for drivers speeding more than 10 MPH over the posted speed limit,” said Chief Rich. “However, these citations will be significantly less than an officer-written ticket in a school zone.” Chief Rich said that the cameras will only operate on school days and citations issued under the School Zone Safety Program will not assess points to the offender’s driver’s license nor affect automobile insurance rates.

“Speeding in our community is a safety concern, but no more so than in our school safety zones,” said Chief Rich. “Ultimately, this will deliver big safety benefits to our school zones by helping to keep our school children and those traveling through school zones much safer.”