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The California Appropriations Committee recently reportedly killed AB 550, a bill introduced earlier this year that would have created a pilot program to use cameras for speed enforcement. It would have created a pilot program to test speed cameras in five cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Jose, and another unnamed city in southern California. The author, David Chiu (D-San Francisco), worked with opponents to write the bill so that their concerns about various issues including equity, privacy, and the potential for the cameras to be used to generate revenue.
The bill had been sitting in the Assembly’s “suspense file” — where bills that have a fiscal impact are sent until they are decided on all at once. However, for AB 550, there was no discussion. The chairs of the Appropriation Committees in each house basically read off a list of the bills they have agreed will pass, but not the ones they were killing. Typically, the bills that don’t make it out are dead for the entire year. There is no vote taken, so there’s no way to trace the reasoning behind killing it.
Speeding is actually one of the most common causes of all traffic collisions, not only in the city of Los Angeles, but throughout the entire country. According to statistics compiled by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 30% of all fatal car accidents can be directly attributed to speeding. In 2017 alone, speeding killed an alarming 9,717 people in the U. S. In other words, speeding accounted for over a quarter (26%) of all traffic fatalities that year.
Speed cameras have been shown to be effective deterrents to speeding in states where they are allowed. Studies have reportedly found that vehicle speeds decreased and injury crashes declined between 8% and 50% in areas that implemented them. Pedestrians hit by drivers traveling at speeds over 58 miles per hour or more die at least 90% of the time. In 2020, an estimated 42,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S., and 4.8 million more were injured. That represents an 8% increase over 2019, the largest year-over-year increase in nearly a century.
A.B. 550 reportedly had a lot of support from local governments, transportation planning agencies, and safety advocates. According to Streetsblog’s reporting, some have speculated that law enforcement groups, which have opposed similar bills in the past, and have contributed to Assemblymember and Assembly Appropriations Chair Lorena Gonzalez’s campaign, may have been working behind the scenes to kill it.
While other walking safety advocates supported and even sponsored the bill, the state’s main walking safety advocacy group,California Walks, reportedly opposed it on the grounds that any increased enforcement could create equity issues, since it has become abundantly clear that traffic enforcement disproportionately punishes those who can least afford it. It is unknown if their opposition contributed to the bill’s demise, but the Appropriations Committee did quote the letter from California Walks in the bill’s analysis.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, speeding has become a big problem in Los Angeles and the rest of California. According to the LA Times, the California Highway Patrol saw an alarming 87% increase in citations for speeding in excess of 100 mph. During the month after the start of the stay-at-home order in Mar., the CHP issued 2,493 tickets throughout California for speeding over 100 mph — almost doubling the amount of the same offense seen during the same period in 2019.
Ironically, A.B. 550 would have had no impact on state finances, which is usually the reason a bill would be “heard” by the Appropriations Committee. It left it up to the cities to fund their own programs.