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A bill was reportedly introduced in the California legislature recently that would allow speed enforcement cameras in cities across the state. Cameras that can catch you speeding are outlawed in California as of now, but AB 55 is aiming to make them legal.
As LAist wrote, almost 250 people are killed in crashes every year in Los Angeles, and hundreds more are injured. Speed is a top factor in fatal traffic collisions, especially when a driver kills a pedestrian. Speed camera systems use radar or laser technology to measure vehicle speed, and snap a photo of cars being driven a certain speed over the limit.
When State Assemblymember David Chiu announced AB 550, he said it will allow local cities to “use proven safety tools and end these senseless deaths.” He further added, “We do not have the ability to put a police officer with a radar gun on every single street corner, on every dangerous corner in the state. And so, what we are asking for is the ability to pilot, to test, what we know has been confirmed to work around the country.”
Brian Weidemmeier, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, told CBS SF Bay Area that something has to be done about speeding in crowded urban areas, with people now driving even faster in the lighter traffic of the pandemic.
The bill would direct the state’s transportation agency to develop guidelines for speed camera pilot programs so local cities could launch their own versions. It would also require the programs to be run by local transportation agencies and not police. In L.A., the city’s Department of Transportation, which supports the legislation, would manage the program. The city previously used red light cameras on city streets, though that program was discontinued almost a decade ago.
LADOT Director Seleta Reynolds provided this statement to LAist: “Excessive speeding takes so much from our communities — and this deadly trend has only worsened during the pandemic. Automated Speed Enforcement is a proven street safety tool that has reduced traffic deaths and injuries by 70% in other cities. With this bill, we can allow cities to develop thoughtful programs to deploy this technology equitably while protecting individual privacy.”
Per LAist, the bill seeks to address equity and privacy issues in the following key ways:
This is the second time Assemblymember Chiu has proposed legalizing speed enforcement cameras. A similar bill was introduced in 2017, but died in the Transportation Committee. Changing law enforcement operations is something Chiu reportedly highlighted as a key goal of the push for speed camera programs.
“Traditional policing of unsafe speeding hasn’t succeeded in part because our officers are understandably focused on more serious and violent crimes,” he said during a virtual media briefing. “The impact of this law enforcement on communities of color has been well documented, as drivers of color are much more likely to be pulled over. We need new tools that will protect public safety.”
Traffic stops are the most common interactions between police and the public, and camera-based speed enforcement is thought of a way to reduce those encounters while still holding drivers accountable.
AB 550 is expected to be heard by an Assembly committee this spring.
During the month after the start of the stay-at-home-order last year, the California Highway Patrol saw an alarming 87% increase in citations for speeding in excess of 100 mph. The agency issued 2,493 tickets throughout California for speeding over 100 mph just in Mar. 2020 — almost doubling the amount of the same offense seen during the same period last year.