School safety program launched to limit speeding

News Reporter

Hays County officials launched a new safety program July 15 to limit speeding in school zones.

Schools in the Wimberley area will be piloting a new safety program using radar technology to photograph license plates of vehicles caught speeding in school zones during drop-off and pick-up hours. The new program is intended to better enforce school zone speed limits and reduce complaints.

“It’s pretty common that we are issuing citations in those school zones,” said Commissioner Ray Whisenant, Precinct 4.

The program is scheduled to kick off during the summer school sessions in Wimberley, Ayres said. During this time, only warnings will be issued, said Constable Darrel Ayres, Precinct 3.

A vehicle with an onboard computer and radar technology will be able to photograph the license plates of speeding vehicles in place of the physical presence of a police officer, Ayres said. When school zone lights are flashing at the time of drop off and pick up, the radar will “lock in” on the speed of a car, he said.

The safety program is a coordinated effort to reduce speed and bring people into compliance with zone restrictions during school hours, Ayres said.

Whisenant, said his office routinely receives complaints from parents about speeding during school hours.

Officials said schools utilizing the program will be Dripping Springs Elementary, Rooster Springs Elementary and Dripping Springs Middle School.

Whisenant said there are currently two vehicles and there may eventually be a third. The vehicles will, on some occasions, be moved to other school districts.

When fall classes begin and regular school is in session, the “grace period” will end and the county will begin to give citations for people who are going more than six miles above the speed limit, Ayres said.

Ayres said once a photo is taken, the citation still has to be verified by either himself or his deputies.

Constable Ron Hood, Precinct 4, said the pilot program will only be present in Precincts 3 and 4 of Hays County. Hood said if the program has no effect on speeding or does not identify those who are speeding, the rest of Hays County will not adopt the school safety program.

“I suspect it’s going to serve its purpose,” Hood said. “I think it’s going to slow the speeding traffic through those school zones.”

Although the vehicle will be left to sit alone, Hood said he “highly doubts” any vandalism will be done to the vehicle.

Hood said because police officers cannot be at school zones on a daily basis and, in his opinion, there are more schools than officers available, the vehicle and its concept serves as a “force multiplier.”

The vehicle will be parked only during the day in a very apparent, obvious location, Hood said. It will not be concealed and if there’s any vandalism, it will be out in the open.

“The test run is going to be on us,” Ayres said. “Eventually it may work its way throughout the county.”