California bill would give speed power to local governments

| 9/1/2011

A bill nearing completion at the California statehouse would give communities leeway in setting speed limits and, as a result, reduce yellow light intervals.

Since 2004, California law has required cities to round up their speed limits starting at the 85th percentile of travel speeds. The posted speed must be rounded to the nearest 5 mph increment.

The state Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday, Aug. 30, to advance a bill – AB529 – to give local governments the option to round speed limits down after a traffic study.

The bill now awaits approval of changes in the Assembly before it can advance to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Supporters say the current setup allows speeders to dictate the limits set.

“This is one of the only sections of law where we allow scofflaws to set the law,” Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, told lawmakers during previous discussion on the bill.

Another issue resulting from lower posted speeds is shorter yellow times. In California, the yellow time on roads posted at 30 mph is 0.4 seconds less than at 35 mph.

The issue is of particular concern in California because communities throughout the state use red-light cameras under the guise of increasing safety on roadways. Violations can exceed $500 with court costs.

Critics of the plan to authorize lower speeds say the change provides communities an opportunity to set up speed traps. They say if politicians in California and elsewhere are truly concerned about safety they should make a point of extending yellow times or providing advance warning signs.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California, click here.

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