COVID-19 led to a significant slowdown in cars traveling on California roads, amounting to a third of all vehicles opting to stay parked. In compliance with stay-at-home mandates, many drivers chose not to take to the roads, leading to the number of car accidents decreasing throughout the state by nearly 75%. Many other important decreases followed: miles driven on highways, DUI incidents, driver fatalities, and many more. However, one statistic has yet to decrease.
Even with the significant decrease in car traffic volume, pedestrian and cyclist fatalities have not decreased; in fact, they have risen sharply. Pedestrian fatalities rose steadily from 2018 to 2020, from 2.48 to 2.56 deaths per 100k residents at the height of the pandemic. In 2021, they rose again sharply to 2.91 pedestrian deaths per 100k residents. The National Highway Transportation Authority (NHTSA) states, “The number of bicyclists killed in traffic crashes has been steadily trending upwards since 2010.”
Streets near our local schools would be safer for everyone if speed limits were lowered.
Setting Speed Limits…and how AB43 changes it
Currently, cities are required to set speed limits by measuring the current traffic speed. They then take the speed at which 85% of the traffic is going, and round it up to the next 5 mph. This sets speed limits at the top end of vehicle speed. It does not consider pedestrian and cycling traffic or whether there are other conditions that would make that speed limit unsafe.
AB43 requires cities to:
- Round down to the nearest 5 mph from the measured 85th percentile vehicle speed, rather than rounding up.
- Consider reducing the speed limit by another 5 mph based on the road’s proximity to vulnerable populations (such as schools or elder care facilities) or bike-ped infrastructure (such as trails or protected bike lanes).
Do you know a street that has a too-high speed limit?
WBC is currently compiling a list of roads within Cupertino that we think have speed limits that are too high. YOUR voice is needed to identify streets and show that other residents care about this issue. Please complete our 1 minute survey to share your concerns.
The bill also allows cities to reduce speed limits on multiple streets at the same time by ordinance, giving them another tool to protect residents, as well as declaring “safety corridors” for road sections with the highest pedestrian fatalities.
On state highways, both CalTrans and local agencies will be able to reduce speed limits from 65 miles an hour to any 5-mile increment between 15 and 65 mph, expanded from 25 and 65 mph, after establishing the 85th percentile of driver speed through an Engineering and Traffic Survey
All-residential roads near schools should not be 30mph.
AB 43 is a big step forward toward making roads safer throughout the state of California. It gives cities and regional agencies a powerful new tool as they implement Vision Zero initiatives to reduce bike and pedestrian fatalities to zero.