Few win a lawsuit against Ringgold, the speed cameras in Georgia’s school zone

Of the more than 1,600 allegations issued by the Ringgold School Zone Speed ​​Camera program that the program’s signage did not comply with state law, only 16 were dismissed or the recipient found not liable.

Officials from Blue Line Solutions, the Chattanooga-based company that runs the program, and a Ringgold City Council member defended the crackdown on speeding, saying the number of subpoenas has decreased since the program began in December. Critics argue privately owned cameras shouldn’t enforce speed limits. And they say any subpoenas issued when the program failed to comply with state law should be returned.

Sometime in March, signage for the speed camera program was brought into line with state law, according to Ray Blankenship, a Rossville resident whose appeal was dismissed May 1 by Ringgold Municipal Court Judge Robert Stultz.

Blankenship shared the evidence he presented to the court, which said the city failed to post a speed camera warning sign at the city limits, as required by state law. Stultz did not respond to an email request for confirmation of the reason for the refusal of the subpoena.

Ron Pemberton said he received a subpoena in January – when the signs did not comply with state law – and is fighting it in court.

“If they’re running an illegal system, I think it’s against the law in every way. It’s like pointing a gun at someone and robbing them,” said Pemberton of Flintstone, Georgia, in a phone call.

When he first went to a court hearing to contest his subpoena, most people just paid the fines instead of contesting them, he said. Pemberton said he spoke to Ringgold Mayor Nick Millwood about the issue, but not to any other elected representatives.

“I’m not against having something like this near schools to keep the kids safer,” Pemberton said. “As long as it’s done in a legal and proper manner.”

His next court date is July 5, he said.

(READ MORE: Man gets Ringgold, Georgia speed camera ticket dismissed for signage)

The speed camera program began issuing speeding violations on Tennessee Street/Highway 151 near Ringgold Middle School in early December. By the end of April, 2,055 subpoenas had been served and only 16 were dismissed, according to a public records request by Catoosa County court clerk Elizabeth Brock.

According to City Manager Mark Vaughn, the number of citations decreased from December to April: 781 citations in December, 480 in January, 378 in February, 212 in March and 204 in April.

Although he did not have to pay his subpoena, Blankenship said in a phone call that he lost more than the ticket price for not working for court dates. He said he fought the speeding ticket because the program appeared unconstitutional, but said he knew others did not have the time or knowledge to fight their citation.

Blankenship said he believes the law permitting the program should be revised and that reimbursements paid if the program’s signage did not meet state law should be refunded.

“This would restore confidence in our system of government,” Blankenship said of the refunds. “That aside… It’s the honest and fair thing to do as I see it.”

(READ MORE: Ringgold, Georgia’s Highway 151 gets speed cameras to enforce limits)

A procedure for contesting the ticket is described in the subpoena. Because the subpoena is addressed to the vehicle owner and not necessarily the driver, state law provides for a procedure to declare this at a hearing and hold the driver non-liable.

Members of the Ringgold City Council and Millwood, the city’s mayor, were asked about the oversight of the speed camera program and their opinion on requests to recover allegations that violate state law. Council members Kelly Bomar, Sara Clark, Earl Henderson and Jake Haynes did not respond to the email.

Councilwoman Rhonda Swaney did not answer the question but did respond in an email.

“My only comment would be to reiterate that the number of speeding tickets issued has decreased dramatically since the cameras were installed,” she said. That is the outcome the council had hoped for, she said.

“Do I think they are a permanent solution?” she said. “Not necessarily. Our council will continue to explore all options to address the concerns of our constituents.”

State Senator Colton Moore, R-Trenton, said while he hadn’t heard from any constituents about the cameras, he didn’t like them.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that these kinds of cameras exist,” Moore said in a phone interview last week.

Automated speed cameras are often used for “revenue generation,” he said, adding that there is a problem when a private company runs the program. The incentive of a private company is to make money, not just public safety, he said.

But Mark Hutchinson, founder and chief operating officer of Blue Line Solutions, said in a phone call earlier this month that the company’s focus is on safety, not writing as many tickets as possible.


– For the first violation under Ringgold’s school zone speed camera program, motorists will be fined $100 for speeding 11 mph above the 25 mph speed limit. Each additional subpoena costs $125, with $25 from each ticket going to the processing company and the rest going to the City of Ringgold.

— Subpoenas are considered civil violations. Points are not credited to an offender’s driver’s license, nor are they reported to the driver’s insurance company.

— Failure to pay speeding fines prevents a vehicle owner from renewing the vehicle’s registration and prohibits vehicle title transfer in Georgia.

Source: Blue Line Solutions, State of Georgia, Ringgold Police Department

Contact Andrew Wilkins at awilkins@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.