Speed Limit Increases Needed to Improve Enforcement, Says L.A. City Proposal

In a strange confluence of factors, expired speed limits and a state statute have hampered speed enforcement. Unfortunately, the proposed solution also looks a like a problem.
December 5, 2018, 9am PST | Camille Fink
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Laura J. Nelson reports that an increase in speed limits on more than 100 miles of city streets might be coming to Los Angeles. The city is lagging in reaching its Vision Zero goals to eliminate traffic deaths in the city by 2025, and vehicle speed is a factor that can drastically affect a pedestrian’s chance of survival after a collision. But city officials say higher speed limits will ease existing enforcement restrictions, reports Nelson:

The dilemma stems from a decades-old California law designed to protect drivers from speed traps, which requires cities to post speed limits that reflect the natural speed of traffic. If a speed limit is too low, or if it is more than 7 years old, the police can’t use radar guns or other electronic devices to write speeding tickets there.

Speed limits had expired on over 200 miles of Los Angeles streets, as of this past summer, with minimal enforcement in these areas. Two-thirds of the street miles currently up for consideration are in the San Fernando Valley, where the speed limit has crept upward on many streets in the last decade, says Nelson. "Residents have approached the speed limit increases with trepidation, saying they are reluctant to see higher speed limits, but support more speed enforcement that targets the most dangerous drivers."

As for how Los Angeles found itself in this situation, Nelson notes that the Department of Transportation team conducting speed studies lost staff during the Great Recession and needed updates were not conducted. As a result, the number of speeding tickets issued by police plunged 77 percent from 2010 to 2017.

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Published on Thursday, November 29, 2018 in Los Angeles Times
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