APD Chief announces grace period for school zone speed camera tickets

Altavista Police Chief Tommy Merricks has announced a decision the department has made in concert with the Altavista Town Council and the company Altumint to void the fines for the 700+ tickets issued during summer school.

In less than a month, June 6 – July 1, the school zone speed cameras in front of Altavista Combined School and Altavista Elementary School issued 731 tickets for drivers going 10 miles per hour or more over the 25 mph zone when the speed zone lights were flashing. The cameras caught drivers going as fast as 51 mph past the elementary school and 47 mph past the combined school while the 25 mph school zone was in effect.

But there were some glitches in the system, including citations issued for incidents that happened before June 6 or instances of the lights failing to flash at the correct times. Furthermore, traffic entering Lynch Mill Road near the elementary school from Frazier Road, Ogden Road, or Lakewood Drive cannot see the flashing speed zone signs.

While the APD had initially announced that it would dismiss the tickets resulting from those issues, Merricks announced on Thursday (July 21) that all the tickets from the summer school session would be dismissed. Those who already paid the fine can apply for a refund.

The department has affirmed numerous times that the goal of the speed zone cameras is not to make money, but to get drivers to slow down in the school zones when the students are arriving in the morning and leaving in the afternoon. Merricks has even said he would be happy if no tickets were issued because all the drivers have slowed down. It’s all about increased safety for the children, he confirmed.

Chief Merricks’ statement is as follows.

“In November of 2020, the Town of Altavista entered into a contract with Altumint to erect speed zone cameras in the school zones in Altavista.  This is a new program and is the first one of its kind in the state of Virginia, as HB1442 was approved in 2020. Upon undertaking a project like this, we knew that there would be lessons learned. 

 “After previous warning periods, the speed zone cameras were activated starting with the summer school session from June 6 through July 1. There were over 700 citations issued during that period, which is concerning. We took a step back and looked at the program and listened to feedback from the community. We have identified several issues that we feel need to be corrected and are taking action to correct these issues. 

 “In an overabundance of caution, The Town and Altumint have come to the consensus that anyone who received a citation during the summer school term (June 6 through July 1, 2022) and has not paid, those citations will be voided.  Anyone who paid the citation(s) they received and requires a refund, Altumint will provide the refund, which will be processed within 5-10 business days. 

 “It is our goal to have the necessary modifications to the program done by the start of school this year (August 16th); however, we will not start until the modifications are complete. We will keep the public informed as to when enforcement will start.

“The purpose of our program is to slow traffic in the school zones. We feel that this time has been a learning period for not only us, but the public as well. Awareness of the issue of speeding in school zones has been raised. We appreciate the constructive feedback from the community, and we have listened. By working together, we hope to make the safety of our students, teachers, and motorists top priority.  

“Sincerely, Chief Merricks”