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Red-light, speed-zone camera citations in Federal Way begin Jan. 1

Speed zone enforcement cameras located at Twin Lakes Elementary along South 320th Street are now issuing warnings to drivers violating the 20 mph school speed zone. More of the same cameras are located at Saghalie Middle School. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Speed zone enforcement cameras located at Twin Lakes Elementary along South 320th Street are now issuing warnings to drivers violating the 20 mph school speed zone. More of the same cameras are located at Saghalie Middle School.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

A 30-day warning period for two speed zone and three red-light enforcement cameras began Tuesday.

The newest red-light photo enforcement cameras are found at South 312th Street and Pacific Highway South, and at the north and south approaches to South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South. The cameras have been up and operating for a few months, but not issuing warnings or citations while the technology was fine-tuned. The warning period will last until Dec. 31. After that date, the cameras will begin issuing citations.

The speed-detecting cameras are at Southwest 320th Street near Twin Lakes Elementary, 4400 S.W. 320th St., and 21st Avenue South near Saghalie Middle School, 33914 19th Ave. S.W. The cameras were placed at their locations based on the number of speeding violations documented in the school zones, Cmdr. Stan McCall said this past spring when the addition of the cameras was first announced.

The cameras are operating during school hours. The speed-detecting technology is synchronized with the flashing school zone lights. The cameras will capture a photo of the license plate of every vehicle exceeding the speed limit of 20 mph during specified hours. The cameras are monitoring approaches to the zones from both directions. They are the first of their kind in Federal Way.

"The intent of this program is to alert drivers to the presence of school zones, improve voluntary compliance in these reduced speed zone areas and increase safety," Lt. Mark Bensen said.

A third school speed zone camera was planned for Panther Lake Elementary. That camera will likely be placed next year, McCall said. Construction at the school has interfered with placing the cameras this year, he said.

Three new red-light enforcement cameras bring Federal Way's total up to seven. The newest cameras are now monitoring and issuing warnings for red-light violators at intersections along the Pacific Highway South corridor. One camera is located at South 312th Street; two more are at the north and south approaches to South 320th Street.

The two recently installed cameras on South 320th Street are in addition to two previously installed cameras, which have been in place since the start of the city's red-light photo enforcement program in September 2008. Two cameras located at Enchanted Parkway and South 348th Street also kicked off Federal Way's pilot program last year. To date, the city's four red-light photo enforcement cameras have issued 15,211 citations, McCall said.

But officials insist the program is about changing drivers' behavior, not generating revenue.

"The intent of our intersection safety program is to get drivers to obey traffic signals and change the behavior of red-light running. This is about public safety, and collisions resulting from red-light violations are completely preventable," Bensen said.

Beginning in 2010, the city's recently added enforcement cameras will begin issuing tickets. The registered owner of vehicles caught on camera speeding in school zones or running a red light will receive a ticket by mail. The ticket includes information that allows the owner to review a short clip of the violation online.

The cameras photograph the vehicles' license plates. They do not capture the faces of the driver. The city contracts with American Traffic Solutions Inc. to provide the red-light and speed detecting cameras. The tickets are reviewed by police officers before they are officially issued to motorists.

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