Will Gavin Newsom Approve Speed Cameras In California?

Speed cameras in California as part of a pilot program

cleared a major hurdle this week. Assemblymember Marc Berman, who co-authored AB 645, said the legislation would help reduce the number of deadly pedestrian accidents.

In its latest iteration, Assembly Bill 645 would establish a five-year pilot program in six cities — San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles, Glendale, Long Beach and San Francisco — to allow speed cameras on select corridors:

  • School zones
  • City streets with the highest incidences of fatal and severe injury crashes, designated as “safety corridors”
  • Streets with a history of races and sideshows

The bill mandates that the cameras capture solely rear license plates on vehicles going more than 11 miles per hour over the speed limit. It also prohibits the use of facial recognition technology and requires each city to develop a “racial and economic equity impact analysis” in collaboration with community stakeholders to ensure that speed cameras are not disproportionately installed in low-income neighborhoods.

Tickets would start at $50 for vehicles traveling between 11 and 15 mph over the posted speed limit, then increase with a driver’s measured speed. Low-income residents would have the option of reduced fees or community service in lieu of the fine.

The money generated through camera programs could be used only to sustain the program or to fund street safety upgrades in the areas where cameras are placed.

Damian Kevitt, the executive director of the nonprofit Streets Are for Everyone, has been a long-time advocate for speed cameras. On Monday, he joined forces with safety advocates, community leaders, and individuals who have tragically lost loved ones in reckless speeding crashes. They gathered at Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon's district office in Lakewood, urging him to advance AB 645 for a vote on the Assembly floor. Along with a report analyzing dangerous speeding in various school zones across the state, they presented over 2,000 petition signatures in support of AB 645.

Currently, the bill is in the suspense file of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) fails to move it to the Assembly floor by Friday, which is a crucial legislative deadline, the bill will perish in the committee, mirroring what happened in previous years.

Kevitt expressed concerns that while there may be "reasons on paper" for the legislation's failure to progress, there might be undisclosed motives that are not shared outside the Appropriations Committee, which he referred to as a "democratic black hole."

Meanwhile, traffic-related tragedies continue to impact communities throughout the state. In Los Angeles alone, the death toll from traffic collisions reached 312 people last year, marking the highest annual count in at least two decades.

Kevitt emphasized that enough is enough, asserting that speed cameras are a life-saving tool that should be utilized to prevent further loss of life.

Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), a co-author of AB 645, questions why the bill is subject to the Appropriations Committee at all. She points out that it is an opt-in program for cities, and they bear the financial burden rather than the state.

How are high-risk locations typically determined

The determination of high-risk locations for speed cameras can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific approach adopted by traffic authorities. However, here are some general factors that are often considered when identifying high-risk locations for speed cameras:

Accident data: Traffic authorities typically analyze accident data, including the frequency and severity of crashes, to identify areas with a high incidence of speeding-related accidents. These could include intersections, road segments, or specific stretches of roadway where a significant number of accidents have occurred.

Speed-related violations: Traffic authorities may also consider data on speeding violations in different areas. They may analyze information from law enforcement agencies, including speeding tickets and citations, to identify locations where speeding is prevalent.

Community concerns: Local communities often play a role in identifying areas where speeding is a problem. Residents, community organizations, or advocacy groups may report areas with high speeds or a history of accidents, drawing attention to the need for speed enforcement measures.

Engineering assessments: Traffic engineers may conduct studies to assess road design, traffic patterns, and other factors that contribute to speeding. This evaluation can help identify areas where speed cameras could be effective in improving safety by reducing excessive speeds.

School zones and residential areas: Speed cameras are commonly deployed in school zones and residential areas to protect vulnerable road users such as children and pedestrians. These locations are typically given priority due to the potential risks associated with speeding near schools and in densely populated residential areas.

The specific methodology for identifying high-risk locations can vary depending on local laws, regulations, and enforcement practices. Traffic authorities may use a combination of the above factors or additional criteria to determine where to deploy speed cameras effectively.

Speed camera opposition from ACLU

Gavin Newsom ACLU and Speed Cameras

Gavin Newsom has close ties to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which is an organization that advocates for individual rights and civil liberties in the United States. 

In the past, the ACLU has expressed concerns about the use of speed cameras, primarily focusing on potential privacy and due process issues. Here are some general points that the ACLU and other civil liberties organizations have raised in relation to speed cameras:

Privacy concerns: The use of speed cameras involves capturing images or videos of vehicles and drivers, which raises concerns about surveillance and the potential for abuse. The ACLU has argued that such surveillance can infringe upon individuals' privacy rights, particularly if the data collected is not adequately protected or if it is retained for extended periods.

Due process: The ACLU has emphasized the importance of due process in law enforcement practices. Concerns have been raised about the accuracy of speed cameras, including issues related to calibration, maintenance, and potential errors in identifying the responsible driver. Inaccurate readings or lack of proper review mechanisms could result in individuals being wrongly penalized without sufficient recourse.

Disproportionate impact: Critics of speed cameras argue that they disproportionately affect low-income individuals who may struggle to pay fines. There have been concerns that these fines can create a cycle of debt, leading to further financial hardship and potential negative consequences for marginalized communities.

The ACLU has raised concerns about speed cameras, their opposition may vary depending on the specific context and the safeguards in place to protect privacy and due process rights. It's always best to refer to the organization's official statements or recent publications for a comprehensive understanding of their current position.

Where are speed cameras used?

In New York City, speed cameras were added to some school zones beginning in 2014. In the following years through December 2021 and the city expanded the program in 2022 to run cameras 24/7 rather than during previously limited school hours and has more than 2000+ cameras operating throughout the city.


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