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Slow down! Chesapeake police remind drivers of speed cameras in school zones

As hundreds of students head back to the classroom, Chesapeake police officers are making sure they are safe crossing the street.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — In a school zone on South George Washington Highway in Chesapeake, cars swoosh by quickly in a 45 miles-per-hour speed zone. It's busy with drivers rushing to get to their next destination.

Chesapeake police officers say it seems simple to slow down when the lights flash yellow on a 25 mph sign in a school zone. However, they say it can often be easy for drivers to become consumed by the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. 

Officer Marc Lawrence who coordinates Chesapeake police's "Photo Safe" initiative said many can forget school is soon to be back in session.

"The interstate is right here," said Officer Lawrence, referring to the South George Washington Highway. "So, people are concentrating on trying to get to work, get off work...they forget."

In April, Chesapeake police officers implemented a new strategy to capture people speeding through school zones.

Ten stabilized cameras and two mobile camera units are now set up to catch anyone in a rush.

"This system is here because we've heard the complaints and there's been enough to say this is a problem and this system can help us fix this problem while achieving our current goal of highway traffic safety and our limitation on manpower," said Lawrence.

Officer Lawrence said drivers can face a $100 fine if caught speeding.

He said all violations caught by the camera are sent to the police department, where officers review them before sending them off. 

However, Lawrence said this new system isn't meant to ruin a driver's day. It's meant to remind drivers that students are likely crossing the street.

"In order to make our roadways safe, we have to work together," said Lawrence. "The best rule of thumb is if those flashing lights are on, go 25 [mph]."

Chesapeake police officers said they recorded about 1,400 drivers speeding in school zones in the last two weeks of May. That resulted in approximately $140,000 in fines. This happened before summer school even started.

"During summer school, we did have a large amount of violations that came through. I think that toward the end of summer school, we did see a change, where we weren't getting as many," Lawrence explained.

He said his team is analyzing data from this summer to determine future plans for this initiative. Right now, Lawrence's team is monitoring what these cameras record as they get ready for the first full year of school with this new system.

Chesapeake Public Schools students start their first day of school for the fall 2022 academic semester on Tuesday, September 6.

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