California law gives speed power to local governments

| 10/19/2011

A new law gives California communities leeway in setting speed limits and, as a result, reduces 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.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill to give local governments the option to round speed limits down after a traffic study. AB529 takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said the setup in place the past seven years allows speeders to dictate the limits set. He said he is glad that will soon change.

“I promised residents that I would do something about those who speed through our neighborhoods,” Gatto said in a statement. “I am proud to have delivered that promise.”

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 was of particular concern as Gatto’s bill was considered in Sacramento 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 said the change provides communities an opportunity to set up speed traps. They said 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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