An effort backed by advocates for pedestrians and bicycle riders would set up experimental programs in several California cities to get drivers to obey traffic laws, in part through the use of red-light and speed cameras.
More than 3,700 people died in California traffic-related accidents last year, most of them involving passenger cars, while some involved motorcycles and light trucks. But while vehicle-crash deaths have generally flatlined, pedestrian deaths have risen.
“I am tired of attending memorials and hearing about another person killed because a driver was speeding.” — David Chiu,
In 2018, 893 pedestrians were killed on California roadways, a 26% increase over a four-year period, and in 2018 alone, more than 14,000 pedestrians were injured. About 7,500 pedestrians were killed during the decade after 2009.
The legislation would set up six, five-year programs in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco and two other cities — as yet to be specified — in southern California. The effort, which does not use facial recognition software, targets high-injury areas and school zones.
“I am tired of attending memorials and hearing about another person killed because a driver was speeding,” Assemblyman David Chiu, the author of the bill, AB 55o, said when he introduced the legislation.
“At a certain point, we have to say enough is enough. These deaths are completely preventable. We have the tools to save lives. This bill will allow us to use proven safety tools and end these senseless deaths.”
Citations would be issued, although violations would not result in points on a driver’s DMV record.
The bill faces an uphill fight.
It was introduced in February and went to the Transportation Committee, where it was amended, then later went to the Appropriations Committee, where it was held. It has not reached the Assembly floor.
Four years ago, Chiu authored authored red-light camera legislation, AB 342, but withdrew the measure after it failed to gain support.
Under the latest version of the bill, the programs would be under the jurisdiction of the local transportation agencies working with Caltrans, with the guidelines to be in place by July 2022. The equipment to be used isn’t spelled out, but likely would include include video, still cameras, radar and and laser devices, according to a legislative analysis.
Drivers’ data collected through the program would be confidential. Citations would be issued, although violations would not result in points on a driver’s DMV record.
The penalty amounts were capped at $50 for violations of 11-to-15mph over the limit, $100 for violations of 15-to-25mph over, and $200 for violations that are 25mph over the posted limit. Vehicles going 100mph or more will receive a fine of $500.
“We can’t build safe streets through punitive measures like ticketing, nor through power and dominance like community surveillance.” — California Walks
Penalties are civil, not criminal, and money collected through the program would got to expanded bike lanes, median islands, curb extensions and other “calming” projects.
“The bill requires the pilot programs to have strong privacy protections in place, including a ban on facial recognition software. Data from a speed safety system cannot be used for any other purpose or shared with any other entity except in response to a court order or subpoena,” according to Chiu’s staff in StreetsBlogSF.
Backers include the advocacy groups WalkSF and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a number of cities and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
Opponents include the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, California Walks and the Western States Trucking Association.
“We can’t build safe streets through punitive measures like ticketing, nor through power and dominance like community surveillance,” wrote California Walks, an advocacy group that includes walking and biking enthusiasts. “As Californians and statewide advocates, we all must work to promote local and state policies that are people-friendly, equitable, and protect our most vulnerable road users.”
Editor’s Note: Eric Furth is a Capitol Weekly intern from UC Berkeley.