Speeders beware: School zone camera may come to Westside

Published 12:05 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Smithfield’s Town Council will need to vote on the camera proposal at a future date.

The days of drivers speeding past Westside Elementary with impunity may be numbered.

Deputy Police Chief Chris Meier briefed Smithfield’s Town Council at its March 27 committee meetings on plans to install an automated speed enforcement camera system outside the school. The matter will eventually come back to the council for a vote.

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West Main Street has a posted speed limit of 45 mph at Westside that drops to 25 mph on school days from 8:30 a.m. to 9:05 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 4:05 p.m. A speed study the Smithfield Police Department conducted Feb. 6-10 saw 638 vehicles, or roughly 13% of the 4,290 observed over five days, exceed the school zone speed limit by 10 mph or more.

The Smithfield Police Department has selected Maryland-based Altumint as its vendor for the camera system, which would detect speeding motorists and photograph their vehicles’ license plates.

According to Altumint’s presentation, the camera system would carry no upfront cost to the town. According to the meeting’s recorded minutes, Altumint Regional Sales Manager Sam Crawley estimated an average monthly cost of $3,500, which would come out of the $100 fines assessed on violators. In the event the monthly cost was higher than the fines collected, Altumint would not bill the town for the overage.

The minutes further specify that the fines would be limited to drivers doing 10 mph or more over the posted school zone speed limit, and as civil violations, would not affect a driver’s insurance or result in points against someone’s driver’s license. The company would handle mailing the tickers and court appearances, should a driver choose to contest the fine. Violators would have the option of paying the fine online.

The camera program is not designed to identify the driver of the vehicle, so unless a vehicle’s owner submits a court filing stating he or she was not behind the wheel when the violation occurred, the fine will be assessed against the vehicle’s owner.