FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 13, 2023
CONTACT: Jodie Medeiros, Executive Director, Walk SF, email@example.com, 415.596.1580 (cell)
Speed camera bill signed into law by Governor Newsom
San Francisco and five other California cities can now pilot this lifesaving technology because of AB 645
San Francisco, Calif. – Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 645 today, which means California will join 21 states in allowing the use of speed cameras to enforce one of the deadliest driver behaviors.
“This is a huge win for safe streets, and so many of us who have worked on this are celebrating today. We are grateful that the Governor saw the urgent need for this life saving solution,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco (Walk SF). “Thank you, Governor Newsom. You are saving lives.”
“Dangerous speeding hurts and kills people every day in California, and every possible action must be taken to prevent these senseless tragedies,” continued Medeiros. “Finally, cities like San Francisco can start using a proven tool to protect communities from deadly speeding.”
In San Francisco and California, speed is the #1 cause of severe and fatal traffic crashes. More than 1,000 Californians have died in speed-related traffic crashes every year for the past five years, and thousands more severely injured.
Walk SF and the group San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets (a group of people who have been directly affected by traffic crashes) have been working to pass speed camera legislation since 2017. In 2017, then-Assemblymember (now City Attorney) David Chiu introduced a bill to allow cameras in California. But this and other attempts since never made it out of Committee. Assemblymember Laura Friedman (44th District Glendale/Burbank) was the author of the successful AB 645, with support from Bay Area lawmakers (see below).
“It’s been painful knowing there’s a proven solution out there that could be saving lives – and California cities simply haven’t been allowed to use it,” said Medeiros. “Finally, we don’t have to wait any longer.”
Many of the most outspoken voices in support of AB 645 are parents who lost children to speeding drivers. Many have gone to Sacramento multiple times since 2017, hoping their stories would get through to legislators.
“Every day, I grieve for my daughter. But today I celebrate, because fewer families will suffer what mine has because AB 645 is law,” said Liz Chavez of San Jose, who was recently featured in a New York Times article about AB 645 and losing her five-year-old to a speeding driver. “Our leaders heard our stories and saw the need to act. This means the world to me and my family.”
205 communities in 21 states have already embraced speed cameras. Speed detection systems dramatically shift behavior and can reduce the number of severe and fatal crashes by as much as 58%. New York City’s notable reduction in pedestrian deaths over the past decade is in great part thanks to their expansive speed camera program.
San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Glendale, and Long Beach are the six cities that will be able to pilot speed cameras. Here in San Francisco, AB 645 allows a total of 33 speed cameras to be piloted for a five year period, and cameras can be placed only on streets with the highest crash rates or in school zones.
Camera placement will be determined in part with local community involvement to create equitable program guidelines. San Francisco is expected to launch cameras in early 2025.
“The City is already planning how to get these cameras on the ground quickly, which is fantastic,” said Medeiros.
Walk SF will continue to push for the City to bring more speed solutions to more streets, so that combined with these 33 cameras, a widespread driver behavior shift happens citywide.
Walk SF issued a report detailing how the City can take a more comprehensive approach to bring down dangerous speeds. Streets can be designed to slow drivers in a variety of proven ways: narrowing streets by removing lanes, timing traffic signals, adding posts and curbs in intersections so drivers make turns more slowly, strategic use of speed humps, and much more are detailed in the report.
The City of San Francisco actively supported AB 645, with Mayor London Breed’s strong endorsement of the legislation. SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin, District Supervisors Matt Dorsey and Rafael Mandelman, and SFMTA Board Chair Amanda Eaken all went to the State Capitol to advocate for the legislation. After AB 645 made it out of the California Assembly, State Senator Scott Wiener helped move the bill successfully through the Senate.
AB 645 was introduced in this legislative session and championed by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (44th District, Southern California), and co-sponsored by Assemblymembers including Bay Area Assemblymembers Phil Ting, Matt Haney, Buffy Wicks, and Mia Bonta and State Senator Scott Wiener.
About Assembly Bill 645
AB 645 is a thoughtfully-written bill that builds in strong privacy and equity considerations. The bill protects privacy by banning any facial recognition – only license plate data will be collected, and the data must be expunged after a citation is issued.
Fines start at only $50 for drivers going 11 miles per hour above the posted speed limit, and increase for higher speeds. Tickets would be like parking tickets, with no points being added to one’s driving record. The program would allow cities to reduce fines for low-income people or allow them to complete community service hours instead. The program is overseen by the transportation department rather than the police department.
You can read the full bill text here.
About Pedestrian Deaths
Fourteen pedestrians have been killed in San Francisco in 2023 so far. In total, 20 people were killed while walking in San Francisco in 2022. 39 people were killed in all traffic crashes in 2022, which is the deadliest year since the City adopted Vision Zero in 2014. Vision Zero is a comprehensive, data-based, preventative, and proven approach to ending severe and fatal crashes that has been successful worldwide.
Nationally, pedestrian deaths are at their highest numbers since 1981 with an average of 20 pedestrian deaths every day.
Why Speed Matters So Much
The faster a driver is going, the more likely a crash is to occur. That’s because the driver has a smaller scope of vision, less time to react, and can’t stop the vehicle as quickly. And the faster a vehicle is traveling at the moment of impact, the more serious the injuries and the higher the chance of death.
Pedestrians are highly vulnerable as speed rises above 25 MPH.
The most frequently cited study on speed and risk of fatality shows that at 25 MPH and under, a person has a less than 1 in 4 chance of being severely injured or killed if they are hit. But by 40 MPH, this flips, with 75% of pedestrians suffering life-threatening injuries or dying. Most drivers don’t realize how deadly going even 5 or 10 miles over a 25 MPH speed limit is — and many wouldn’t think twice about doing it.
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Walk San Francisco (‘Walk SF’) advocates for safe streets for everyone who walks, which is everyone. Since our founding in 1998, Walk SF has been leading the way to make San Francisco a pedestrian-first city where people of every age and ability can walk safely. Learn more.
San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets is a group of people who have been directly affected by traffic crashes, including crash survivors and people whose loved ones have been killed or injured in traffic crashes. Learn more.