Man receives speed camera ticket dismissed for signage in Ringgold, Georgia

More questions have been raised about the privately operated automatic speed camera program for school zones in Ringgold, Georgia, after a Rossville resident’s lawsuit alleging a lack of statutory signage was dismissed by a court.

Proponents say the automated speed camera program on Tennessee Street or Highway 151 near Rossville Middle School has improved safety by reducing the number of speeders, while critics oppose a private company over due process concerns allow the law to be enforced.

After a month-long warning program, the program began issuing subpoenas on December 1.

Rossville resident Ray Blankenship received a speeding ticket in the mail with a photo of his vehicle on one of the cameras for a speeding violation on Jan. 13. His vehicle was driving in a 25-mile zone at 38 miles per hour, the subpoena said, but he said he was not driving the car and was at work during that time.

Blankenship said he was not pleased that a private entity from another state was monitoring Georgians.

“That’s not really cool,” Blankenship said in a phone interview.

The speed camera program is operated by Blue Line Solutions, a Chattanooga-based company founded by former police officers. Kelly Abercrombie, the company’s vice president of operations, said in an email that speeding tickets would be issued to people who went 11 miles per hour or more than the posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour in the school zone.

(READ MORE: Why is the speed limit lower on Hixson Pike in Chattanooga and are these speed cameras still legal?)

Blankenship said his daughter was driving the car when the violation occurred, but he said the broader question of who was driving the vehicle could not be detected with the automated program. If someone borrowed their car and got a speeding ticket from an officer, the driver got the ticket — and that’s the difference between that program, he said.

The subpoena detailed how he was able to pay for the $100 ticket by mail or phone to contest the ticket at an administrative hearing in Ringgold Municipal Court.

According to statistics from Ringgold Mayor Nick Millwood, there were 781 subpoenas in December, 480 in January, 378 in February and 212 in March.

Of both the $100 charge for a first offense and $125 for all subsequent speeding charges, state law allocates $25 to a municipality’s contractor for processing.

In an email, Millwood said he was working to get statistics on the number of speed camera tickets refused, but that total was not made available before the deadline.

At his first court hearing, Blankenship said he saw a friend bring information about the program’s improper signage to help another friend contest his ticket. Blankenship said he expected his ticket to be dismissed because he had a signed affidavit showing he was at work when the ticket was issued, but the judge ordered him to present his daughter to bring court.

“Fuck no, I’m not bringing my daughter here,” Blankenship said of the judge’s request to bring her to court.

Under state law, the owners of the ticketed vehicle are permitted to file a request for dismissal if they produce an affidavit denying that they were the driver at the time of the infraction.

Another court date was set, and Blankenship’s friend with information about inadequate signage also gave him that information, Blankenship said. He declined to give the name of his friend who had told him about the signage sackings.

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

When Blankenship returned to court on May 1, the judge told him that the speed camera program’s signage was within the law.

“Yes sir, maybe you are now,” Blankenship told the judge. “This ticket, if you look at the issue date, was in January and I was like, ‘You guys didn’t fix that until March.’ He just looked up at me and said, ‘Case dismissed. I wish you a nice day.'”

Blankenship said he missed about four hours of work, which cost him a lot more than the $100 ticket. He said he did not hire a lawyer to contest the ticket.

“I’m the kind of person who won’t let go once I bite into something,” Blankenship said of the effort to win his ticket. “That’s just how I am.”

The state’s speed camera law needs to be revised, he said, because having a so-called surveillance state is a bad idea.

Ringgold City Council member Kelly Bomar said the panel is regularly briefed on the camera program and he understands that the number of subpoenas has dropped dramatically since the cameras went live.

Ringgold City Council members Sara Clark, Earl Henderson and Jake Haynes were asked via email about oversight of the speed camera program and the number of allegations issued and dismissed, but did not respond. City Council Member Rhonda Swaney was asked about the program on Facebook Messenger but did not respond.

Mark Hutchinson, founder and chief operating officer of Blue Line Solutions, said in a phone call that the company’s mission isn’t to issue as many tickets as possible, but to reduce speeding.

“Georgian law requires that there must be a warning sign: photo control ahead,” Hutchinson said. “A non-mandatory part of our program is a radar speed sign that tells you your speed.”

In addition, turn signals are installed to warn of the speed zone in the school, he said.

People don’t like getting tickets, but Hutchinson said the program is as transparent as possible.

Jimmy Gray is a Ringgold resident who is involved in local civic affairs and the Republican Party of Catoosa County. Speaking to Facebook Messenger, he said he’s heard many speed camera tickets have been dismissed after motorists invoked the state law regulating the signage of speed camera programs.

(READ MORE: Ringgold High promotes assistants to succeed Robert Akins as head coach)

But Gray said not everyone who has a ticket knows how to argue for a layoff.

“If the citizen just pays or doesn’t fight it, then it’s a shame they’re out of money,” Gray said.

When told there could have been as many as 1,639 speed camera alerts in the three months before the signage was rolled out, Gray said he believes the fines should be refunded because citizens don’t have to refer the law to a judge.

Contact Andrew Wilkins at or 423-757-6659.