California Lawmaker Proposes Speed Limit Technology to Curb Road Deaths

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In a bid to address the alarming surge in road deaths, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener introduced the “SAFER California Streets Package,” featuring a groundbreaking measure that would restrict cars from exceeding 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. The proposed bill, S.B. 961, aims to mandate the installation of “speed governors” or “intelligent speed assistance” devices in cars starting from 2027. These devices would utilize GPS technology or cameras to enforce a maximum speed, preventing vehicles from surpassing the speed limit by more than 10 miles per hour.

Senator Wiener expressed the urgency of addressing reckless speeding as a commonsense approach to prevent unnecessary and heartbreaking crashes. The legislation, if passed, would not only focus on speed-limiting technology but also advocate for safety features like underride guardrails to become standard in larger vehicles such as trucks. These guardrails aim to reduce the risk of smaller vehicles, including cars and bikes, being pulled beneath trucks during crashes.

Another facet of Wiener’s legislative package, S.B. 960, centers on the enhancement of streets and sidewalks across the state. The proposed improvements include the implementation of new crosswalks and curb extensions, emphasizing a comprehensive approach to bolstering road safety.

This isn’t the first time Senator Wiener has championed such measures. In 2019, he introduced a similar bill that was subsequently vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom. At the time, Newsom argued that the bill was overly prescriptive and costly. However, Wiener remains committed to pushing for safer roadways, stating that California should lead in reducing preventable deaths on its roads.

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has previously recommended the adoption of speed-limiting technology. According to the NTSB, speeding-related crashes accounted for one-third of all traffic-related deaths, totaling 12,330 fatalities in 2021. The push for speed-limiting technology comes amid a concerning trend, as Los Angeles reported more traffic-related deaths than homicides for the first time in a decade last year.

Despite the potential life-saving benefits, the proposed legislation is not without opposition. Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a trucking industry group, expressed reservations about the technology’s effectiveness. He argued that there are situations where drivers may need to exceed the speed limit for safety reasons, emphasizing the importance of preserving drivers’ ability to respond to specific road conditions.

As the debate on road safety continues, Senator Wiener’s proposed legislation seeks to strike a balance between leveraging technology to prevent speeding-related accidents and addressing concerns raised by industry representatives.

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