New California Bills Introduce Speed Cameras, Restrict Self-Driving Trucks, Make Bike-Friendly Code Changes
California is poised to introduce speed cameras on its roadways for the first time while simultaneously taking steps to restrict the operation of self-driving trucks without human drivers, and bike-friendly code changes. These groundbreaking developments come as California grapples with the challenges of road safety, traffic fatalities, and the advent of autonomous vehicles. Learn more about the bills below:
A bill that for the first time in California history would authorize speed cameras on roadways in six selected cities passed both houses in Sacramento last week and is now on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk awaiting his signature. Assembly Bill 645 is an attempt to bring speed cameras to California for the eighth time since 2005 and the first to make it all the way to the desk of the governor. Gov. Newsom has until Oct. 14 to sign the bill into law or veto it.
Many of the provisions in the bill are included in a report from the California State Transportation Agency’s “Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force.” That report found that studies show roadway systems that try to slow down drivers “are an effective countermeasure to speeding” if they use cameras that automatically snap a picture of the car’s license plate and deliver a citation to the registered owner through the mail. If signed, sending citations to speeding motorists without the presence of law enforcement would become legal in California for the first time. But the bill is a pilot, meaning only these six cities would get authorization: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
Many of these cities have seen dramatic increases in traffic fatalities caused by speeders, and also caused by street takeovers and illegal street racing. From 2005 to 2014, 112,580 Americans were killed in traffic collisions in which speeding was a factor, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Pedestrian deaths have increased 77% from 2010 to 2021 in the United States, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association study. Los Angeles had 312 traffic fatalities in 2022 — a record.
A person struck by a vehicle going 20 mph has a 5% chance of dying. Someone hit by a vehicle traveling 40 mph has an 80% chance of dying, according to statistics provided by SAFE. Money from citations would be used to pay for the speed cameras, and any leftover funds would be put into traffic calming measures, not into a city’s general fund. Civil penalties would vary depending on how much the driver exceeds the posted speed limit. Citations would be $50 for going 11 to 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, $100 for going 16 to 25 mph over, $200 for going 26 mph over or more, and $500 for driving 100 mph over the speed limit or greater. The first citation is a warning.
Escalating rates of traffic collisions resulting in serious injuries or fatalities, including traffic deaths of pedestrians and bicycle riders, have galvanized a safer streets movement asking for speed cameras. Speed cameras in 140 other communities are credited with reducing traffic collisions and resulting fatalities. In Scottsdale, Arizona and Portland, Oregon, traffic fatalities have fallen 54% since the cameras were instituted. In Washington D.C, traffic fatalities decreased by 70%. In New York City, a 73% drop in speeding is attributed to speed cameras.
OMNIBIKE BILL (AB 1909)
Gov. Gavin Newsom inked his approval of the OmniBike Bill, or AB 1909, on Sept. 23, which modifies the vehicle code, acknowledging that the rules designed for cars don’t always align with the needs of cyclists. This legislative alteration reinforces the idea that bicycles rightfully belong on California’s roadways.
Arguably the most significant among them is the mandate for drivers to change lanes when overtaking a bicyclist, whenever feasible. The prior stipulation, which required motorists to maintain a 3-foot distance while passing cyclists, was challenging to enforce and often inadequate in certain scenarios. This ‘change lanes to pass’ provision will simplify the process of holding drivers accountable for not providing sufficient space for cyclists’ safety.
Additionally, the bill puts an end to the enforcement of bicycle licensing laws by cities and counties. Such requirements are largely unknown to most residents and are seldom enforced.
The OmniBike Bill also broadens access for e-bike riders. In some regions, certain bikeways had prohibited some or all e-bikes. This bill ensures that e-bikes gain access, while still permitting the departments of parks and recreation to impose restrictions on specific trails and granting local authorities the discretion to prohibit them on equestrian, hiking, and recreational paths.
Lastly, the bill empowers cyclists to cross streets using pedestrian walk signals, rather than solely relying on a green traffic light. If Governor Newsom also signs AB 2264, a companion bill that mandates a 3- to 7-second pedestrian head start at Caltrans walk signals, cyclists would enjoy a similar advantage.
The implementation of these provisions in the vehicle code is anticipated by the year’s end, with the exception of the provision regarding cyclists advancing on walk signals, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
California lawmakers, union leaders and truck drivers are trying to steer Gov. \Newsom toward signing into law a proposal that could save jobs as self-driving trucks are tested for their safety on the roads.
The legislation would ban self-driving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, which would include vehicles from UPS delivery trucks to massive semi-trucks, from operating on public roads unless a human driver is on board. Proponents of the bill say it would help address concerns about safety and losing truck driving jobs to automation in the future. Under the bill, the rules would be in effect until at least 2029.
It’s part of ongoing debates about the potential risks of self-driving vehicles and how workforces adapt to a new era as companies deploy technologies to do work traditionally done by humans. Opponents of the bill say self-driving truck regulations should be left up to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and officials with expertise on keeping the roads safe. They argue self-driving cars that are already on the roads haven’t caused many serious accidents compared to cars driven by people. Businesses say self-driving trucks would help them transport products more efficiently in the future.
There are about 200,000 commercial truck drivers in California, according to Teamsters officials. In August, the DMV sent a letter to elected officials saying the testing of self-driving vehicles across 18.3 million miles since 2014 in the state has not led to any fatalities. Autonomous vehicles were not found to be “clearly at fault” for the few collisions that caused serious injuries, the letter said.
The bill would require the DMV to submit a report to the Legislature updating lawmakers on the safety of medium- and heavy-duty self-driving trucks. It would require companies to report collisions that caused property damage, injury or death to the department within 10 days.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.