Fairfax County could introduce speed enforcement cameras with pilot next year

A sign warns drivers on Blake Lane to slow down (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Fairfax County Police Department could begin using cameras to catch speeders in nine school crossing zones and one highway work zone as soon as early 2023.

The proposed photo speed enforcement pilot program was presented to the Board of Supervisors at a public safety committee meeting Tuesday (Oct. 4).

The work zone included in the pilot would be on Route 28, while the school placements have not been finalized, FCPD Capt. Alan L. Hanson, the police department’s traffic division commander, said.

Drivers caught going at least 10 mph over the speed limit would receive civil penalties, according to the presentation. A maximum penalty of $100 could be incurred for exceeding the limit by at least 20 mph.

A working group including several county departments recommended a six-month pilot program, Hanson said. Their work came after a 2020 state law passed permitting jurisdictions to use speed cameras in school and construction zones.

The draft ordinance authorizes FCPD use of the devices and outlines the fine structure. Photo speed enforcement would aim to reduce the number of people speeding and bring down the number of crashes in and around school areas, Hanson said.

“We’re not trying to entrap people, what we’re trying to do is maintain or gain voluntary compliance,” he said.

Multiple supervisors emphasized that the initiative is not designed to bring in revenue. Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said he doesn’t believe residents will see the program as a money grab, but the board could also avoid this perception by making a plan for what to do with any excess revenue.

“I say plow them back into pedestrian and bicycle safety in and around our schools,” he said.

The state law only enables cameras in designated school crossing and highway work zones. This limits the county’s ability to use them around Blake Lane, where safety concerns have been particularly urgent after an allegedly speeding driver struck and killed two Oakton High School students in June.

The county has already increased fines for speeding and routed school buses off of Blake Lane in the wake of the fatal crash.

“Blake Lane is a corridor that the school board is working to establish as a school zone, and so that’s one of the places that we would like to select for the photo speed enforcement as soon as it can be designated as a school zone,” Hanson said.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity asked about FCPD’s ability to staff the program after it declared a personnel emergency in August.

Options could include drawing on officers who are on “light duty,” Hanson said, though having “at least one designated staff to maintain and kind of run it would be certainly beneficial.”

Braddock District Supervisor James R. Walkinshaw, who vice chairs the public safety committee, said it’s “obvious” this effort would decrease pressure on officers by reducing the need for them to be stationed outside a school for traffic enforcement.

“They’re going to be able to be out doing proactive policing in other parts of the county,” Walkinshaw said.

Following the pilot, the program could expand to include 50 cameras between July and September of 2023, and then grow again to better cover school zones starting in July 2024, according to the presentation.

In the presentation, Hanson estimated cameras will cost $3,000 per month.

An administrative item will be submitted at the board’s Nov. 1 meeting so that the county clerk’s office can advertise the ordinance, according to a timeline in the presentation. The board will vote on the ordinance after a public hearing at its Dec. 6 meeting.

“I’m fully on board with the pilot,” said Franconia District Supervisor Rodney L. Lusk, who chairs the public safety committee. “This is a great program, a great start for us and I think it’s going to definitely help.”

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