Lynnwood’s traffic photo enforcement fines could change if the Lynnwood City Council approves a recommendation from the police chief. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Lynnwood’s traffic photo enforcement fines could change if the Lynnwood City Council approves a recommendation from the police chief. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Lynnwood police seek traffic photo enforcement fine changes

The changes would clarify red light violation penalties, add school zone speeding ranges and a $25 fee.

LYNNWOOD — Traffic safety photo enforcement fines could change under a proposal from Lynnwood Police Chief Jim Nelson.

Based on red light citation data from the past 5 years, Lynnwood residents won’t be paying for most of those. Since 2018, almost 86% of vehicles ticketed for running a red light were registered outside of city limits, according to data Nelson presented Monday to the Lynnwood City Council.

The police chief recommended clarifying red light violation fines and adding two speeding ranges to the school zone enforcement. He also proposed a new $25 “traffic safety impact fee” be tacked onto each violation. The council is expected to vote on it later.

“When this was initially sold to us, and it made a lot of sense, the whole idea was these would be for the sake of safety,” Lynnwood City Council member Jim Smith said. “After this went into effect, I found myself changing my driving through the intersections.”

Cameras monitor two school zones for speed and eight intersections for red-light infractions. Lynnwood was one of the first cities in the state to use traffic enforcement cameras. The program has generated millions of dollars in revenue from fines.

Current city code lists the red light fine at $124, but allows for changes as permitted by state law which has increased the penalty to $139, Nelson said. He recommended referencing state law for the fine amount or updating city code to the current $139.

Last year, Lynnwood issued 35,939 tickets for red light violations. Of those, only 13.86% involved vehicles registered in the city.

By law, photo enforcement fines are sent to the vehicle’s registered owner and not the driver. Cameras record the license plates. Fines can’t exceed the cost of parking violations, which in Lynnwood are $450 for handicap parking tickets.

“We can’t go over $450,” Nelson said.

School zone speeding was fined at two ranges based on how fast the driver was going over the posted speed limit, generally 20 mph near schools. Traveling 6 to 15 mph over the limit carries a $124 fine, and $250 for 16 mph and higher.

Nelson proposed matching Lynnwood’s ranges with state law. Those are 6 to 10 mph over with a $150 fine, 11 to 15 mph over at $200, 16 to 20 mph at $250, and higher speeding at $300.

“You see people drive through our school zones much slower,” Nelson said.

“We’ve always given so much grace for these,” Lynnwood City Council member Shannon Sessions said. “I’m fine with these updates.”

If approved, revenue from a new $25 traffic safety impact fee added to each photo enforcement fine would go to the city’s criminal justice fund. That would help the city pay for its traffic unit currently funded for four officers and a sergeant.

As the city’s population grows from over 40,500 and traffic likely increases, so to will the need for more officers to investigate collisions, Nelson said.

The additional traffic safety impact fee places the cost of traffic enforcement and collision investigation on law violators, Nelson said.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037;; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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