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Mayor unveils new “Speed Van”

SEATTLE – Mayor Greg Nickels, Councilmember Nick Licata, and Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske unveiled the city’s new “speed van” at Gatewood Elementary School in southwest Seattle. The speed van’s photo radar tool will help enhance safety in school zones.

The principal intent of this pilot project is to test how much photo radar is capable of reducing speeds in school zones and enhancing the safety of school children and staff.

“Even one pedestrian collision is too many,” said Nickels. “Through our pedestrian safety efforts, we work to increase driver and pedestrian awareness, especially in school zones where our children walk every day.”

The mayor’s pedestrian safety campaign, launched in 2005 with the slogan, “Drive Carefully…Think of the Impact You Could Make,” includes such other elements as pedestrian safety signs, improvements to crosswalks, and education efforts by police at local schools and community centers.

“A safer walking environment for kids in school zones requires new strategies to change driver behavior,” said Licata.  “These vans reduce vehicle speeds as well as crashes in the areas they are used, and later they can be moved to a different hot spot.”

This latest tool to increase pedestrian safety will be deployed for the 2008-2009 school year in eight elementary and middle school zones around Seattle: Bagley, Broadview Thomson, Bryant-Assumption, Catherine Blaine, Gatewood, Schmitz Park, Stevens, and West Woodland.

“The speed van tool enhances our enforcement abilities while freeing up other resources to focus on our mission of traffic and pedestrian safety,” said Kerlikowske.

The new photo radar van was delivered in mid-July, 2008 in time for officers to use the tool and begin issuing warnings for speed violations in school zones during the last week of summer school.

In total from July to September, 809 warnings were issued. Using the speed van tool, officers began to issue $189.00 citations for speed violations during the week of October 13, 2008. The violation does not go on your driving record.

Per the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), photo radar can only be enforced where school zones are properly established and marked. The speed limit in all school zones is 20 mph.