California poised to give speed power to local governments

| 9/14/2011

A bill that has completed its trek through 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.

Assembly lawmakers voted to sign off on Senate changes to a bill – AB529 – to give local governments the option to round speed limits down after a traffic study. The bill now moves to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said the current setup allows speeders to dictate the limits set.

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. Billed as increasing safety on roadways, violators face fines topping $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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