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Senator Wiener introduces two safe streets bills; one would limit speed in all CA vehicles

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On Wednesday morning, we were proud to stand at a press conference with State Senator Scott Wiener when he introduced two pieces of legislation. These two bills, SB 960 and SB 961, are together being called the SAFER California Streets Package: Speeding and Fatality Emergency Reduction on California Streets.

Walk SF is a proud and official sponsor of both bills. And we are beyond excited about Senate Bill 961.

SB 961 would require all vehicles built or sold in California to have safe driving technology so they are unable to drive more than 10 MPH above the speed limit (emergency vehicles are exempt).

This is bold – the first attempt in the nation. If SB 961 passes, it would save countless lives, and likely affect the entire American automobile industry. (Note: All new European vehicles will have Intelligent Speed Assistance starting this summer.)

Limiting dangerous speeds in vehicles would be a significant, needed step toward safer speeds.

Speed is already the #1 cause of severe and fatal crashes in San Francisco and California. With people driving larger, more powerful, and heavier vehicles, the stakes are getting higher every day. Nothing is more important to reducing the likelihood and severity of a crash than bringing down speeds. We have a speeding epidemic here and nationwide, and every possible street design and enforcement technology solution is needed to address this.

SB 961 also includes a much-needed and overdue requirement for large trucks exceeding 10,000 pounds manufactured, sold, or registered in the state to have side underride guards.

Underride guards can prevent pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists from being swept under and run over by a large truck’s rear wheels.

Senator Wiener also introduced Senate Bill 960. This ‘Complete Streets’ bill would hold our state transportation department, Caltrans, accountable for designing streets for the most vulnerable users: people walking, biking, and taking transit.

Cities all over the state including San Francisco have Caltrans roads running through neighborhoods. Here in San Francisco, Park Presidio, Lombard Street, 19th Avenue, Skyline Boulevard, Van Ness Avenue, Sloat Boulevard, and San Jose Avenue are overseen by Caltrans. These are all designated high-injury streets because of crash rates and have long needed safer designs.

The bills Senator Wiener introduced are deeply personal for Families for Safe Streets members Jenny Yu and Stephen Bingham, both of whom attended the press conference.

“Pedestrians become innocent carnage and collateral damage when so many people are speeding,” said Jenny, after telling the heartbreaking story of what her family has gone through since her mother Judy was hit by a speeding driver at Park Presidio and Anza, the location of the press conference. “We need to pass this legislation.”

Stephen Bingham’s daughter Sylvia was killed on her bike after being hit by a driver of a box truck, and if there had been underride guards on the truck, there’s a good chance she would have survived. Stephen has been fighting for years for this common sense solution to get traction, and was relieved and grateful that Senator Wiener was carrying this forward.

We are relieved and grateful, too. We need this kind of bold, forward-thinking leadership for safe streets, and we need it now.

“There is no reason why people should be driving 20, 30, 40 miles over the speed limit,” Senator Wiener said in his remarks.

Absolutely not.

We will keep you posted on how you can get involved in supporting SB 960 and SB 961. Be sure you’re signed up for Walk SF’s newsletter.

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Photos by Emily Huston