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Long Beach officials reportedly want to reduce the speed limit on the residential streets of the seaside community Belmont Shore from 25 mph to 15 mph. Councilwoman Suzie Price, whose Third District includes Belmont Shore, has scheduled an online community meeting to discuss the proposal next week.
Known for its sandy beaches, calm lagoons, picturesque canals, and home-lined boardwalks, the plan would impact the one-way streets in the Shore, with no plans to change limits on the two-way sections of Bay Shore Avenue, Second Street, the Toledo, and Granada Avenue. Shore side streets are narrow, with one lane and parking on both sides of the street. Price’s meeting notice reportedly said there were a number of traffic studies on the streets done after complaints from residents.
AAA’s 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index reported that 64% of surveyed drivers considered speeding over 10 mph on residential streets to be extremely or very dangerous. However, only about 41% of drivers reported doing so within the past month.
Moreover, research done by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, in 1992 showed that lowering posted speed limits by as much as 20 mi/h (32 km/h), or raising speed limits by as much as 15 mi/h (24 km/h) had little effect on motorist’ speed. The majority of motorist did not drive 5 mi/h (8 km/h) above the posted speed limits when speed limits were raised, nor did they reduce their speed by 5 or 10 mi/h (8 or 16 km/h) when speed limits are lowered. And while lowering speed limits below the 50th percentile does not reduce accidents, it does significantly increase driver violations of the speed limit.
Speeding has been a public safety epidemic for decades and the subject of attention from federal, state, and local governments. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding-related crashes have accounted for more than 25% of annual crash deaths since 2008. Also, 9,478 deaths, or 26%, of all motor vehicle fatalities, occurred in speed-related crashes in 2019.
The issue of pedestrian deaths after being hit by cars is a big one – especially in Los Angeles. A study published by AAA in 2011 examined vehicle speeds when they crashed into pedestrians and found that 10% of pedestrians died when hit by vehicles traveling at 23 mph. That figure then increased to 25% if the car was going 32 mph, 50% at 42 mph, and 75% at 50 mph. And, at 58 mph, 90% of pedestrians died.
Over the past decade, at least 10 state legislatures have given state and local governments more flexibility to lower speed limits. For example, Massachusetts enacted a law in 2016 authorizing localities to set speed limits at 25 mph in certain instances. In Boston, the default speed limit is now 25 mph, unless signage states otherwise. According to a study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there was a 29.3% decline in the odds of vehicles traveling faster than 35 mph in Boston since the speed limit was lowered. Also, the odds of vehicles going faster than 30 mph fell by 8.5% and the chance a vehicle would exceed 25 mph declined 2.9%.