Cars and pedestrians travel in western Los Angeles on Nov. 10, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Traffic cameras will soon be able to ticket speeding drivers in six of California’s largest cities after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a speed safety system pilot program on Oct. 13.
Assembly Bill (AB) 645
, by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Burbank), will allow the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Glendale, and Long Beach, and the city and county of San Francisco to establish a five-year pilot program to install speed cameras in “high-accident” corridors, school zones, or areas known for street racing.
Mr. Newsom’s signature officially made California the 21st state to allow the use of traffic cameras to crack down on speeding.
The pilot programs can start as early as Jan. 1, 2024, when the law takes effect.
Under the law, cities are allowed to operate the cameras for five years, or until Jan. 1, 2032, whichever comes first, according to Assembly Transportation Committee staff member David Sforza.
The cost to each local jurisdiction is unknown but would be significant, according to a legislative analysis by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. The bill doesn’t obligate any local government to implement the program, and the state wouldn’t cover any costs or reimburse them. However, local jurisdictions could apply for federal highway grants.
Once a local program is implemented, the cameras will be placed in locations that are geographically and socioeconomically diverse, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. Cities must also install the cameras at an angle and focus them to capture photos of speeders only, and not other drivers, vehicles, or pedestrians.
“The purpose [of the program is] to make sure the Legislature [gets] usable data,” Mr. Sforza told The Epoch Times.
Under the new law, participating cities will be required to first adopt a local policy for its implementation and approve a study of how the pilot program will impact residents then follow up with a 30-day public information campaign.
The programs will be operated by city departments, not law enforcement, according to Ms. Friedman, who’s also running to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in Congress.
California Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, urges lawmakers to approve her measure to ban the manufacture and sale of new fur products, in Sacramento, Calif., on May 28. 2019. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo)
Once a pilot program is up and running, only drivers caught by the cameras driving more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit can be cited. First-time violators who are caught driving 11 miles to 15 miles per hour over the speed limit will get a warning. Those caught a second time will get a ticket in the mail.
Fines start at $50 and could reach $500 for subsequent tickets, but the cost could be offset or reduced for low-income violators. Photos and records of the ticket would be confidential, and citations couldn’t be used to suspend or revoke a driver’s license, or to add points against the driver.
A ticket will be issued within 15 days of the violation and include a photo of the license plate and rear of the vehicle, the camera location, and date and time that the violation occurred, along with the cost of the penalty. Vehicle owners will have 30 days to request a review at no charge or an administrative hearing.
Funds collected from the program will be used for each local jurisdiction’s road and maintenance programs or on campaigns to reduce speeding.
Ms. Friedman said the “groundbreaking” bill would make streets safer.
“For too long, we have referred to most of these deaths as ‘accidents’ to sweep under the rug the uncomfortable truth: These deaths are preventable,” she said in a statement issued on Sept. 1, when the bill was headed for a final vote in the state Senate.
The cities included in the speed camera plan supported the bill.
“I am committed to achieving Vision Zero, which is our policy to end severe and fatal traffic injuries on San Francisco streets,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, according to a statement
issued on Sept. 1 by Ms. Friedman.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during a news conference outside of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco on March 17, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Walk San Francisco, a nonprofit group advocating for the end of traffic violence, lauded the governor’s approval of the program.
“This is a huge win for safe streets, and so many of us who have worked on this are celebrating today,” Jodie Medeiros, executive director of the organization, said in a statement on Oct. 13. “Dangerous speeding hurts and kills people every day in California, and every possible action must be taken to prevent these senseless tragedies.”
The bill passed the Assembly on May 31 on a 58–7 vote, with 15 members abstaining, and passed the Senate on Sept. 12 on a 29–6 vote, with five members not voting.
The National Motorist Association, a nonprofit advocacy organization for motorists, joined several other groups, including ACLU California Action, Safer Streets L.A., Black Lives Matter California, Human Rights Watch, and the Anti Police-Terror Project to oppose the bill because of increased surveillance.
The coalition asked the governor in a Sept. 15 letter
to veto it, saying the bill would cost California tens of millions of dollars and put marginalized communities needlessly at risk.
“While we appreciate the author’s worthy intention to reduce traffic fatalities caused by speeding, we are concerned about the approach AB 645 takes to solving the problem, which raises fundamental privacy, due process, equal protection, and equity concerns while also costing significant money to run,” the coalition stated in the letter.
A similar program was adopted by New York City at a cost of more than $162 million, including a yearly operating cost of $104 million, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Since the cameras were installed in June 2020, 46 percent of license plates that were issued a warning haven’t received a second ticket, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.
The Peace Officers Research Association of California was also against the bill, citing concerns about cameras replacing law enforcement officers.
“Although the sponsor cities claim that these cameras would not be used to replace officers on the streets, who are used for much more than just traffic duties, it has come to [our] attention that the City of Oakland, California, is planning to eliminate the Police Department’s entire traffic division due to a budget shortage and with the anticipation of the passage of AB 645, even though this bill is supposed to be a ‘pilot project,’” the association said, according to the bill analysis.