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6/23/2009
California Legislators Prepare to Unleash Speed Traps in Pasadena
Proposed law would allow Pasadena, California to lower speed limits to generate more traffic tickets.

Pasadena radar copA state Senate committee will vote today on whether to gut an anti-speed trap law that has protected California drivers for the past seventy-six years. Assembly Bill 564, introduced by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena), exempts his home city from the statute that now requires any jurisdiction using radar on a road receiving federal aid to use engineering safety studies to establish speed limits. The exemption for Pasadena passed the state Assembly by a 51-17 vote last month.

With a tightening budget, Pasadena officials hope to be the first jurisdiction to permit police officers to wield radar guns on roads with radically lowered speed limits. According to the Senate's own analysis, Pasadena's primary purpose is increasing the number of traffic tickets issued, not safety.

"When asked if there were a safety issue associated with speed on these streets, the city of Pasadena was not able to provide evidence that there was a higher collision rate, or any other type of incident that would indicate a safety problem," the Senate Transportation Committee's bill analysis explained. "Posting a lower speed limit, however, is not likely to slow traffic down. The 85th percentile has long been used as the standard for setting speed limits because experience has shown that the majority of people drive at a speed that feels safe for the conditions. If the conditions do not change on the roadway, drivers will continue to drive at their current speed. Because this bill allows for radar enforcement on segments that were not justified on the grounds of an engineering and traffic survey, this situation will likely cause more motorists to be cited for speeding."

The bill also allows Pasadena to declare streets as part of "residential districts" -- which have a 25 MPH speed limit -- even when the area lacks the appropriate number of homes to qualify as residential. This modification also allows the use of radar on these streets without an engineering study.

"The sponsor argues that many of the posted speed limits are not enforceable if they were not set in accordance with a valid engineering and traffic survey," the Senate analysis explained.

California's speed trap law states that speeding tickets may not be issued on collector roads where a proper study has not been completed within five years -- unless the police officer proves in court that the driver's speed was unsafe for conditions. Portantino originally intended his bill to remove this requirement statewide, but he later scaled back his bill to cover Pasadena. If enacted, however, the cities of Altadena, Arcadia, Duarte, La Canada Flintridge, Mayflower Village, Monrovia and Temple City are likely to be next in line to demand the same ability to lower city speed limits.

To become law, the legislation would still need to clear the full Senate before being sent to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) whose position on the legislation is not known. The Assembly Transportation Committee expects to hold another hearing in the fall about bills to lower speed limits.

A copy of the bill is available in a 160k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Assembly Bill 564 (California State Legislature, 5/18/2009)

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