Mayor Cantrell at odds with Councilwoman Cantrell

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell says her decision not to announce changes in the city's traffic camera program was to prevent more people from breaking the law. (Photo by Ted Jackson, | The Times-Picayune)

New Orleans drivers, consider yourselves warned: School’s back in, which means those always-controversial speeding cameras are back on.

As much as many drivers hate the cameras, the announcement from City Hall is a positive development. The return to regularly scheduled monitoring, after a summer-long break, follows a big dust-up last spring over Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s unannounced move to reduce the threshold for issuing tickets.

Result of New Orleans' silent traffic cam changes making headlines? Drivers slowed down

Previously, drivers passing through 20-mph school zones wouldn’t get ticketed unless they hit 26 mph, but in February the administration quietly lowered the cutoff to 24 mph. In non-school zones, the threshold is now 8 mph over the posted limit, down from 10 mph. The policy change, which the administration considered announcing before deciding not to, resulted in more than 62,000 additional tickets issued, worth about $4.7 million.

The secrecy prompted accusations that Cantrell, who had campaigned as a traffic camera critic, did it for the cash. She insisted otherwise, claiming that move was dictated only by safety concerns.

Grace Notes: Cantrell said traffic camera change was for public safety, but it prompted a cash influx

We share those concerns, but also believe the administration should play it straight with people who are just going about their daily business. An analysis by The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate suggests this is the best approach; it found that, once drivers were alerted to the new rules by news reports — if not unpleasant news in their mailboxes — many did slow down.

It’s time to do so again. This time, nobody has an excuse to be surprised.