Cameras catch thousands of speeders near Fairfax Co. school zones

A sign denotes a new speed camera on Fairfax Boulevard, near Fairfax High School, on the morning of Nov. 1, 2021. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Thousands of drivers have been caught speeding in the months since speed cameras were placed in school zones near eight Fairfax County, Virginia, schools, according to police data obtained by WTOP.

In total, 23,431 cars were caught going 10 or more miles per hour above the speed limit in April, May and June combined. The cameras were installed in February, but speeders received warnings until about April 10, according to Capt. Alan Hanson, a commander in Fairfax County Police’s traffic division.

However, only 8,169 of those speeders were sent fines, because the cameras aren’t yet able to utilize flash to identify license plates, Hanson said. He said the county expects to be able to use flash in the near future, enabling the cameras to capture clearer pictures late at night and in the early mornings.

In May and June, the county received over $226,000 in payments from speed camera citations.

The program aims to motivate drivers to slow down in areas near schools where pedestrians may be, Hanson said. The results have been encouraging, with about a 24% drop in speeding at most of the locations.

“The goal, obviously, is speed reduction and increased awareness in areas where you have the most at-risk people or highway users,” Hanson said. “Those are pedestrians and construction workers.”

The eastbound camera near Francis Scott Key Middle School in Springfield caught the most speeders in April through June. It caught 1,878 in April, 2,463 in May and 1,093 in June.

The county, Hanson said, has done speed surveys near several of the schools where cameras were placed, and has seen a decline in speeders since they’ve been active. There was a 37% drop in average speed on Silverbrook Road near South County High School, he said. Northbound, the county saw the average speed go from 33.6 to 24.4.

On Franconia Road, near Francis Scott Key Middle, the westbound average speed was 39.34 miles per hour in the 25 miles per hour zone, Hanson said. After the camera pilot program started earlier this year, the average speed dropped to 27.15 miles per hour, Hanson said.

The most speeders were caught in May: 11,981. Over 6,500 were caught in April, and 4,900 were caught in June.

Fines vary based on speed. Drivers going 10 to 14 mph over the speed limit get a $50 civil penalty, Hanson said. Speeding by 15 to 19 mph is a $75 fine, and 20 mph and over is a $100 fine.

Cameras are located near Francis Scott Key Middle, Chesterbrook Elementary, London Towne Elementary, Sleepy Hollow Elementary, Terraset Elementary, South County High, Irving Middle School and West Springfield High.

Now that school is out for summer, Hanson said the county is looking to move some of the cameras to different school zones near campuses that offer summer school. They’d be placed at their original locations again in the fall.

In fiscal 2024, Hanson said, the county is looking to add an additional 40 sites to the program. That process will be done in coordination with the Fairfax County Public Schools, Hanson said, to figure out where school leaders want to see additional enforcement efforts implemented.

Once a school zone is setup on Blake Lane near Oakton High School, it will also likely get a camera, Hanson said.

“Everyone be safe and be aware and just take a moment to make sure of your surroundings, make sure you’re watching out for pedestrians or the lights or just different things that affect your safety,” Hanson said.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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