Supporters push for controversial speed safety camera bill in Sacramento

There's a renewed push to get controversial speed safety cameras installed on California's roads.

Supporters of a new bill headed to the state’s Capitol on Wednesday to get AB 645 passed. Many of these supporters have had loved ones killed in speed-related deaths.

Joe Martinez lost his son, Paul, to a traffic accident 10 years ago.

"His 10-year anniversary is coming up," Martinez said before boarding the bus to Sacramento. "We need our streets safe. Let's prevent injuries, let's protect lives. Remember, safe street systems work and we're calling for action today."

If passed, the bill would allow for the installation of speed safety cameras on a limited number of streets with high crash rates. The bill would also apply to school zones.

AB 645 would only be a pilot program for cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Glendale and Long Beach. 

Other cities in the United States have already embraced speed safety cameras, including Portland, Washington D.C., New York City, and Seattle, according to Walk San Francisco, a proponent of the bill. Speed detection systems dramatically shift behavior and can reduce the number of severe and fatal crashes by as much as 51%, the organization said.

Right now, speed safety cameras are not legal in California so supporters and legislators are in for a fight in convincing both sides of the aisle to support this bill. California law does not explicitly authorize the use for automated enforcement for speeding. Speed-camera proposals failed back in 2021 and 2022 over privacy concerns and equitable enforcement. 

California Walks, the statewide pedestrian safety organization, had opposed that bill, saying that any increased enforcement could create equity issues, since it has become abundantly clear that traffic enforcement disproportionately punishes those who can least afford it, CalStreetsBlog reported.

In addition, the ACLU had opposed previous bills because the organization was worried about the facial recognition technology identifying the wrong suspects. 

This time around, tickets would be issued to the owner of the speeding vehicle, not the driver — which could open up another host of issues.  Fines would start at $50 for anyone caught driving 11 miles over the speed limit and go up from there. Fee reductions would be available for those who financially qualify.

Jodie Medeiros of Walk SF said she wants legislators to move the bill forward and hopes testimony from people directly impacted by speeding cars helps.

"Speed is the number one killer on our streets in San Francisco," she said. "People have lost love ones. There are people who have been seriously injured."

Many cyclists also support the bill and other traffic-calming methods

"Within the past few months we’ve had a teenager who was critically injured on Arguello at California Street," said Kristin Edtieche of the SF Bicycle Advisory Committee. "And just last week, a beloved member of our community was killed here just a few yards away while he was riding his bicycle by an out-of-control driver."

She was referring to track cycling world champion Ethan Boyes, who was struck and killed by a car in San Francisco. 

As for the speed safety camera bill, this would be the fourth time lawmakers have introduced this type of legislation.

AB645 will be discussed in depth in transportation committee hearings next week.