A bill being considered in the General Assembly would let local police install speed enforcement cameras in school zones and automatically bill violators through the mail.
The concept is similar to the sometimes controversial red light and toll lane cameras. Currently Georgia law does not allow the use of cameras for the purpose of enforcing school zone speed limits.
Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said he introduced House Bill 499 at the request of a local police department in his area that has a manpower shortage. The officers could use the cameras as an extra set of eyes to help slow drivers down and prevent children from being hurt or killed.
The proposed penalty for a violation would be $125 plus up to a $25 administrative fee. For the first 30 days, drivers caught speeding would be issued a warning. Afterward, it would be considered a civil offense, meaning there would be no points on a driver's license.
A lobbyist for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta spoke in support of the legislation at a Senate Transportation Committee meeting Thursday.
However, some lawmakers voiced concerns about the cameras being perceived by the public as a money generator. Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, said he gets more complaints about red light cameras than almost anything else in his district. Not only that, but he said there are about 150 schools in Cobb County, and school zones are everywhere.
"It would be perceived in my county as 150 speed traps," Tippins said.
Tippins said Cobb County police are already pretty aggressive about enforcing school zone speed limits using laser speed estimation devices.
Another lawmaker, Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville, said most people would rather be stopped by a real officer, "at least if you get stopped by a real officer, you can talk your way out of a ticket," he said, adding jokingly, "it's the American way."
HB 499 has already crossed over from the House to the Senate. It passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee by a 5-4 vote Thursday afternoon, and could be up for a vote on the Senate floor in coming days.