Each year, nearly 3,600 Californians die in traffic accidents. In addition to thousands of fatalities statewide, nearly 13,000 Californians are severely injured in vehicle-related collisions. It’s a public health crisis that has been growing for more than a decade, and it deserves the same focus on research-based solutions that any other public health emergency receives. 

That’s why I authored legislation in 2018, Assembly Bill 2363, which created the Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force to perform a deep dive into the data of traffic collisions, the key causal factors, and our existing policies around regulating speed. At the end of last month, the task force released a report of its findings that included recommendations for legislative solutions to stop the trend in its tracks. Within a week after the report came out, I responded to the findings by introducing Assembly Bill 2121. This legislation will put many of the recommendations into law and aims to create a pathway for our cities to promote safer travel and reduce traffic collisions.

We have known for a while now that one of the key factors in the severity of a traffic collision is speed. In the course of the study, the task force determined that our current methodology for setting speed limits is the greatest challenge. Under law, we are required to set speeds using a methodology called the 85th percentile rule. It’s a rule that has been in place in many states since the 1950s. Under the 85th percentile rule, speed limits are set every few years by measuring the speed at which 85% of vehicles drive at or below on a road. It is a process rooted in the idea that speed limits are safest when they match the natural velocity of the majority of drivers. Here’s the kicker: it’s a policy that isn’t backed by research.

Our reliance on this relic from the past has actually resulted in a slow and steady increase of speeds on all of our streets. By focusing solely on vehicle speed, the methodology ignores the reality of today’s roads. The methodology fails to take into account a road’s design, history of collisions, and even pedestrian and bicycle traffic. 

Cities and neighborhoods have been calling for change for decades, but their hands have been tied by state law. It’s time for that to change.   

Taking from the task force’s excellent study of the issue, my AB 2121 will provide greater flexibility to local governments when calculating speed limits along a section of roadway if there is found to be an uptick in traffic-related crashes. The bill will also create a statewide traffic safety-monitoring program to identify locations with pedestrian- and bicyclist-related crashes. AB 2121 will also require the revisions to the Highway Design Manual, the key document that governs how speeds are set and roads are designed. Ultimately, my bill is about taking a comprehensive, data-driven approach to traffic safety that empowers local governments and state leaders alike.

As I have said before, the safety and wellbeing of our constituents should be the top priority for any elected official. Over the coming months, I will be working with my colleagues in the legislature on AB 2121, and I hope they are as committed as I am to addressing this issue head-on. It is time we modernize our traffic safety laws so that they truly reflect how we all use our streets and roadways.

What are your thoughts on how we can make our roads safer? I would love to hear from you. Please reach out to me with any comments, questions or concerns or to schedule a sit-down with me about your budget priorities. You can reach me through my District Office at (818) 558-3043 or