Asm. Friedman Publishes Op-Ed About Cracking Down On Speed

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cracking Down on Speed

By Laura Friedman

March 2018


There’s a not-so-silent killer on our streets – one responsible for 265 traffic-related deaths in Los Angeles County in 2016 alone.  In Glendale, where I previously served as Councilmember and Mayor prior to the Assembly, traffic-related injuries and fatalities rose 25% in 2016.  However, Glendale is not alone in this alarming trend; cities and neighborhoods across my district and throughout the Los Angeles region have seen an uptick in the overall number of traffic collisions involving other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.  The statistics are alarming, and yet for decades, cities have been powerless when it comes to combating the problem.  Last month, I introduced a bill to change that.

There are many factors that go into this dangerous trend, but I believe one of the key contributors is the way that the state determines and sets speed limits.  Speed limits are set using a complicated methodology mandated by state law that relies upon an engineering speed survey that hinges on the 85th percentile as a “critical speed”.  The “critical speed” is assumed to represent a speed that the majority of drivers are using due to familiarity with the conditions of the road and good judgement. In reality, this one-size-fits-all prescription does not provide adequate safety in modern urban environments.

Here lies the problem – just because the majority of drivers are going a certain speed does not factor in whether that speed is safe, and the rising number of serious injuries and deaths on our streets prove that.  Current law and practice also collide with the direction communities across our state are taking in the changing nature of transportation.  Given the evolving nature of transportation, on bicycle and foot, a comprehensive traffic methodology of education, engineering, and enforcement, should be the goal of traffic law.

California cities, especially in our region, are avidly looking to move beyond our dependence on cars by increasing public transit options and the systemic alternatives that inherently accompany mass transit such as biking and pedestrian options.  Our state has heralded this direction, through the passage of SB 1, which provides $212.8 million for Active Transportation Grants over 10 years in the Southern California region alone. This infusion of state resources incentivizes our local municipalities to prioritize bike and pedestrian infrastructure and safety.  It could not be more urgent that we address this problem now, or we will see the rate of injuries and fatalities soar even higher.

For this reason, I have proposed AB 2363, which will allow local authorities to round speed limits to within five miles per hour of the 85th percentile, and maintain the ability to reduce a local speed limit by an additional five miles per hour based on an engineering and traffic study. The bill adds a key factor to how an engineering and traffic study is conducted; the potential for, or frequency of traffic collisions resulting in deaths or injuries. This works to identify what streets need greater protection against rising speeds, in order to keep safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure a local priority.


An excerpt from the Glendale News-Press