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A Snail’s Pace: The New Buffalo City School Zone Speed Limit

The coronavirus is changing how we live our daily lives.  Maintaining our health and safety has become a priority and hopefully, a constant.  I am a school teacher and I have been thinking about my students more than ever lately. I miss them and wonder if they are safe, healthy, and happy in their homes during this uncertain time.  These thoughts aren’t new, though, as I am always thinking about their well-being.  I always hope that they are safe when they are at home and when they are at school.  I’m well aware that student safety is a priority, especially during school drop off and pick up times. Drivers should be put on notice for safety precautions just like they should be at any other place where there are pedestrians, particularly children, sharing the roadway.

I am happy to hear that the City of Buffalo has decided to enforce traffic safety by installing cameras in some school zones which will record driver activity and issue citations or tickets to those who do not comply.  The City feels like this will eliminate accidents in high traffic areas where some of the schools are located.  According to the NY Times, the likelihood of serious injuries and fatalities increases steadily with increased vehicle speeds. The National Association of City Traffic Officials (NACTO) has released data regarding the relationship between increased speed limits and pedestrian traffic fatalities. Statistics show that after being struck by a car traveling at 20 mph, the likelihood of death is nearly 0 percent. That risk jumps to 10 percent when a vehicle travels at 30 mph, and at 40 mph the risk increases to nearly 50 percent.

Buffalo is taking a big step forward as it tries to decrease the number of fatalities and injuries associated with school speed zones, while increasing the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike. The City of Buffalo has installed school speed cameras which began recording driver activity on Monday, January 6, 2020.  According to wkbw.com, “The program began after the legislature approved the use of up to 20 cameras in school zones to help bolster safety back in August.”  Though, some intersections and areas of high pedestrian and bike traffic are being monitored by cameras, time will tell if drivers will be more mindful of observing and sharing the road.

City officials shared that it didn’t cost the City a penny to install the school zone cameras yet, but they will have to repay the Boston vendor that provided the cameras.  Violators caught on camera will only be issued a citation and a fine of $50.00 when traveling above 26 mph.  Fines will vary when police officers issue tickets, which can subsequently affect your license and insurance rates. 

Although we should be pleased that the City is taking the initiative to make safer, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods, a concern is for our neighbors who must use these roads on a daily basis while school is in session. Residents who have objected to the cameras express that the speed limits should only be enforced during school hours.  

From what I have witnessed, officers have been consistent when pulling over drivers who are not following the new imposed speed limits, even while students and teachers are in class.

City Council voted last week to amend the school zone camera enforcement system, to be operational for drop off and pick up times only – not during the middle of day, which should have been the case from the start. Apparently drivers were voicing their anger at getting tickets for driving over 26 MPH at 12:30 in the afternoon, which is understandable. It sounds as if the rolling out of this initiative was not crystal clear from the onset. The cameras went up, first issuing warnings, which got everyone upset. Listening to their constituents, the Council raised a number of issues that needed to be addressed. Mayor Brown said that no actual tickets would be issued until flashing lights were in place, to signal to drivers that they are entering into monitored school zones (during drop off and pick up times only).

Officials have now revised school zone camera enforcement starting one hour before the beginning of a school day and continuing one hour after school is dismissed.  Still, I have seen officers pull over drivers daily, and not only during the aforementioned times. 

According to news.wbfo.org, City Parking Enforcement Commissioner Kevin Helfer said that officers can issue a ticket anywhere from 16 to 25 mph, whereas the cameras can only issue at 26.  The City should make clear what speed is exactly being enforced. 

With the increase of City revenue from fines and tickets, citizens should be able to learn if/how funds will be appropriated back into the community.  Let’s hope the newly updated traffic law is justly enforced, with further studies on how its implementation is improving our community, and city infrastructure. The system should not only keep us safe, it should also be an open book, one that we are all invited to read and understand – especially if traveling at a guarded snail’s pace is the new norm for area drivers.

Additional articles of interest:

Investigative Post

WIVB

Written by Angela Polimeni

Angela Polimeni

Angela Polimeni is an ENL teacher in the city of Buffalo. She is the creator of Eco Tee Co, a sustainable apparel + natural products company which she began as a project to inspire environmental and social responsibility within the community. She believes that a sense of place enables people to live a more sustainable lifestyle as the connection between their location and natural environment motivates them to take action to obviate negative global ramifications. @eco_tee_co | https://ecoteeco.com/

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