Local Models and State Recommendations
There are many ways to raise funds for Safe Routes to School, including the use of existing federal, state and local funds that are flexible in nature. There is also another source of funds – traffic fines. When drivers speed and commit other moving violations, especially in areas where there are vulnerable populations such as school zones, they endanger children. Therefore, it is logical that the fine revenue generated should be used for programs that increase safety. Safe Routes to School programs calm traffic and reduce the number of vehicles driven by parents in school zones and other places where children may be walking or biking to school. Utilizing fine-based revenues creates a permanent and appropriate way to fund SRTS programs.
Fine revenue can be generated from school zone-specific violations such as speeding and red light running, or parking, and almost any other traffic infraction in areas where children are traveling to and from schools, or even a citywide or statewide levels. For instance, there could be state legislation or city or county policy mandating double fines in school zones or for school bus passing violations. A municipality may increase the amount of certain types of violations, and the extra revenue used for Safe Routes to School and other traffic safety or bicycle and pedestrian programs.
The best policies are those that connect the traffic violators to the population most at risk by their behaviors, such as speeders in school zones with children walking and biking to school. In this manner, the solution is proportional to the problem; funds generated from dangerous behaviors directly benefit those at risk.
In Portland, Oregon, a portion of an increase in fines for violations such as speeding and red-light running goes to the comprehensive pilot Safe Routes to School program at 25 elementary schools. The program has generated over $1.2 million in its first two years.
Arizona: Double-Fine School Zone Legislation
A state law doubles the fines for traffic violations in the State of Arizona when the “Stop When Children in Crosswalk” signs are present. School zone signs around the state were modified to add the words “Fines Double”. Under the law, drivers pay a minimum of $200, depending on the jurisdiction.
Washington: School Zone Safety Improvement Project
In May 1996, the Washington State Legislature enacted legislation that doubled the monetary penalty (fine) for speeding in school crosswalk and playground zones. The legislation was in direct response to community and citizen concerns. Furthermore, the legislation stipulated that half the doubled fine ($66), go directly to improving school zone safety. The goal of this project is to increase children’s safety in school zones by providing:
- Funding to law enforcement agencies in order to aggressively enforce school speed limits
- Public education campaigns to inform motorists of the law, limits and increased enforcement
- Minor engineering enhancements such as changing to fluorescent yellow-green signage and signs informing the public of the “Double Penalty”
- Funding for school zone improvement projects in cooperation with local groups, agencies, coalitions, Parent Teacher Associations (PTA), and students
During the pilot phase of this project in the year 2000, no school children were injured or killed in motor vehicle collisions. Other project results include providing school jurisdictions with reflective vests for school crossing guards, sponsoring community events, installing new fluorescent yellow-green signs, increasing police presence near schools, enhancing community policing, and fostering a general perception of a safer environment for children.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s link to the National Conference of State Legislature’s online tracking database, specific to traffic-oriented legislation.
Washington Traffic Safety Commission, School Zone Safety Program