In addition to SAFE's sponsorship of SB 735, Speed Safety Cameras in School Zones, there are several bills on the table this legislative session that we support. Check out the following list and submit your own support via the California Legislative Portal.
AB 3 -- Exhibition of Speed on a Highway: Street Racing
As the COVID-19 shutdowns cleared the streets, communities across California have seen a staggering spike in illegal street racing. Illegal street racing is not only dangerous, but it often has fatal consequences for all road users.
AB 3 (Fong) aims to curb illegal street racing by stopping it at its source: motor vehicle exhibition of speed.
Exhibition of speed includes burning out tires, drifting, performing donuts, or other stunts at dangerous speeds to show off for an audience. These activities are commonly referred to as a "sideshow" and frequently lead to a speed contest or crash.
AB 3 matches the penalties for the exhibition of speed with the penalties for illegal street racing, allowing intervention before a devastating crash occurs.
Last year alone, the CHP responded to over 25,000 calls involving exhibition of speed and illegal street racing. Further, CHP has reported a 300 percent surge in motor vehicle exhibition citations over the last five years. Nearly 47 percent of these crashes result in severe injury, 42 percent result in property damage, and 11 percent in death.
Performing reckless speed stunts and street races are equally dangerous, and both pose an equal risk to those using our roads. However, only a conviction for the latter can result in a suspended license. AB 3 closes that loophole.
Latest News: AB 3 is headed to the Senate Transportation & Public Safety committees this month. We will keep you posted...
AB 1238 -- Freedom to Walk Act
Co-sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition, California Walks, Los Angeles Walks, and The Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, AB 1238 would repeal California "jaywalking" laws by legalizing certain common and safe street crossings that currently qualify as traffic infractions.
This does not change the current law that already requires pedestrians to avoid potentially lethal hazardous situations on the roadway. Instead, it would protect vulnerable pedestrians racially-biased policing, inequitable fees and fines, unnecessary and potentially lethal interactions with law enforcement. It would also remove impediments to walking around your neighborhood, facilitating healthy and safe travel.
Criminalizing common pedestrian behavior also leads to fines, fees, and penalties that place an undue burden on the people least able to afford them. Many low-income people rely on walking as their only way to get where they want to go. Jaywalking tickets can lead to hundreds of dollars in fines and fees they cannot afford to pay. This can lead to outstanding jaywalking tickets as a pretext for warrants and arrests, further impoverishing low-income residents. Fines for jaywalking, an infraction that causes no injury to the community, should be eliminated.
Streets are rarely designed to make walking safe and convenient. Signal timing prioritizes vehicular traffic, there is a lack of crossings between common destinations, and long distances between crosswalks are all too common. The most convenient or shortest route to walk may include crossings where there are no crosswalks. Criminalizing a rational, predictable response to poor infrastructure is unjust.
Walking is a key component of a sustainable transportation system, and there is no evidence that jaywalking laws keep people safe. California is in the process of reforming its laws regarding the use of public spaces. Several categories of infractions have already been eliminated in recent years, and it's time to add jaywalking to this list.
AB 1238 recently passed the Senate Appropriations Committee with a vote of 13 to 3. It moves on to the next Committee soon. You can check the California Legislation website for updates.
AB 122 -- Safety Stop Bill
Next up on our list is AB 122 -- The Safety Stop Bill. This bill would authorize a person bicycling to treat a stop sign like a yield sign, giving the right of way to other traffic at an intersection before proceeding safely through, but without the requirement to come to a full stop.
Bicycling is another key component of a sustainable transportation system, and the state should be doing everything in its power to encourage more people to bike to reduce driving and climate change impacts from transportation, improve public health, and improve air quality.
As bicycling continues to grow as an everyday transportation option for Californians, the main barrier people face is traffic danger on the road. People on bikes face two choices: legally use a dangerous, high-speed arterial; or use a quiet, safe side street and slow and yield carefully to get through intersections where you are legally required to come to a complete stop. Having to stop and restart repeatedly is not a significant deterrent to bicycling, and research has found that it reduces the distance that people are willing to ride.
Studies indicate that changing this law makes cycling safer. It is proven that bicycling away from high-speed traffic, as on a stop-sign controlled side street, is much safer than bicycling on a high-speed arterial. Two separate studies in Idaho showed a reduction in the frequency and severity of bicycle crashes after this same law was implemented.
Legalizing this safety stop for cyclists will make intersections safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and motor vehicles alike while making the reasonable practice of treating stop signs as yield signs legal, ensuring that law enforcement does not unfairly penalize behavior, and discourage people from bicycling.
AB 582 -- Hit and Run Penalties Bill
The next is AB 582 - "Gavin's Law," which will ensure an increase in penalties for committing a hit and run crime.
AB 582 is named after Gavin Gladding, a beloved Clovis Unified School District Vice Principal who was tragically killed in a hit and run crime in 2018. Currently, the penalty for an individual who leaves the scene of a vehicle crash resulting in permanent serious injury or death is a maximum of four years and/or a fine of $1,000-$10,000. However, often these current penalties are not enforced.
The potential sentence for leaving the scene of a crash is not enough to deter drivers, especially those under the influence, from leaving the scene. When these drivers leave the scene, not only are they failing to render aid to any injured victim, but they are also removing evidence from the scene of the crime. Law enforcement officials cannot conduct field sobriety tests of the driver, document his/her statement, or collect any other pertinent information and evidence, therefore stagnating the entire investigation.
Conversely, if someone under the influence were to stay at the scene, that person could (and likely would) be given a stricter sentence (possibly even 12 years or more) and/or a higher fine than an individual who fled the scene.
As noted by the Assembly Public Safety Committee members in 2019, there is currently a loophole in the law. It is written that inadvertently encourages someone to flee the crash scene, and it needs to be addressed.
AB 582 addresses this loophole and will increase the possible penalty for hit and runs resulting in death to a maximum possible penalty of 6 years in jail. By bringing this code more in line with the penalties assessed for vehicular manslaughter, AB 582 will encourage drivers to stay at the scene of a crime, even if they may be under the influence.
AB 550 -- Speed Safety System Pilot Program
AB 550, with some similarities to SB 735, would have created a pilot program to use speed cameras, specifically in work zones and high injury networks.
These cameras would have been implemented in 5 cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Jose, and another city in Southern California.
Unfortunately, the bill was killed with no hearing at the Senate Appropriations Committee, citing opposition of law enforcement groups contributing to not moving forward in the process.
For more information on AB 550 and the latest news, check out Streetsblog California's article.
You can submit support for SB 735 and any of these bills listed via the portal on the California Legislative website.