Locals weigh in on Georgia bill that would allow speed detectors in school zones

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - Being a school crossing guard can be a dangerous job. All too often, Doug Johnston says he sees drivers blowing past school zone signs.

"I blow the whistle and they don't even know I'm out there sometimes," Johnston says while manning the intersection in front of Wynnton Arts Academy. "That's how fast they're going and not looking around at their surroundings."

Parents and guardians also chime in speeders are a regular sight during pick up and drop off.

"Most of the time you got people speeding and there're kids trying to get across and a lot of them almost got hit by a car or something," says Diane McWilliams, who's grandchild attends Wynnton Arts.

"When I come to pick her up, usually people go up and down this road pretty fast, so I mean it's hard," says Columbus mom Alicia Taylor. "There's only one cop that you know stands here trying to regulate traffic, but he can't do it by himself."

But Doug may not have to continue working the intersection alone. Georgia House Bill 978, which has now passed onto the Senate floor, would allow school districts to add cameras and automatic speed detectors in school zones.

"I would love to have that cuz they would catch a lot of folks. It's not just this school zone, it's everywhere in Columbus," Johnston says before rushing off to help a crowd of kids cross the busy street.

The devices would operate similar to red light cameras. The bill suggests installing cameras able to capture a vehicle's license plate while speeding through a school zone. The photos would then be submitted to law enforcement who could issue citations.

Additionally, the cameras would only activate in the hours before and after school -- times when K-12 students are most at risk crossing the street.

"You get enough tickets? They'll stop it," McWilliams says with confidence.

"If a cop were sitting there, you'd get a ticket anyway. Just because a cop's not sitting there doesn't give you the right to speed," says another Wynnton Arts mom Alayna Mock.

However, one local senator says he's still on the fence about the legislation.

"Obviously we've got to be very sensitive to the enforcement of school zones, I'm just not sure this particular bill is gonna move the needle on it any," says Senator Josh McKoon. "I haven't been persuaded that it will, I haven't been persuaded that it won't."

He adds he hopes to get more local insight before making a decision.

"I'd like to know where the various school superintendents in the counties I represent and school board members, either how do they feel about this or is this something they would even use," McKoon tells News 3's Mikhaela Singleton. "Those are some important questions I need to have answered before I can really weigh in on one side or the other of the debate."

If the school zone speeding bill passes it would not be mandatory. It would allow each school district to choose where the detectors are set up, as well as how they are funded. 

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