News from Sacramento

Slow Down and Save Lives

We lose 1,000 Californians every year to speeding or speed-related injuries. Another 3,300 are injured, disfigured or disabled. We justifiably spend a great deal of time talking about reckless driving, road rage incidents and the danger of texting while driving when none of those things, dangerous and illegal though they may be, is the biggest threat on the road. That trophy goes to speeding drivers.

Traffic violence is a choice and not an acceptable one. Everyone who lives in our region has a story about a close call while driving on I-5, or worse, while walking their child across the crosswalk to go to school. Then, of course, there are those who didn’t make it to school, work or home to their family. Nearly two years ago, street racers on Glenoaks Boulevard in Burbank crashed, killing three innocent people and hospitalizing two more. For too long, we have referred to most of these deaths as “accidents” to sweep under the rug the uncomfortable truth: these deaths are preventable.

Our streets are not racetracks and we cannot continue to treat them as such. Grand Theft Auto may be a fun way to kill a few hours, but that sort of driving in real life kills real people. That is why three years ago I set about writing a speed camera bill that would, for the first time, bring speed cameras to five pilot cities in California: Glendale, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco. This year, the bill is AB 645 and it’s currently pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

It’s a technology that has shown positive results. When New York City installed its speed cameras, incidents of speeding decreased by 73%. According to the Federal Highway Administration, speed cameras can reduce fatal injuries and crashes by 54% in urban cores. These cameras are saving lives and it’s time to give California cities the opportunity to use the proven technology with the appropriate guardrails in place.

It may be inevitable that everyone’s minds will go to red light cameras when hearing the words “speed camera.” This bill was designed to not repeat the major problems with that program, which included hefty fines of nearly $500, a point on the driver’s license, and oversensitive cameras that gave tickets for not stopping at an exact line.

None of that is true in this bill. AB 645 has been carefully designed to ensure that it is not a revenue generator, a privacy concern or one more tool used to over-police already over-policed communities.

This ticket will never see a courthouse because speed camera tickets are not moving violations. Instead these tickets will be civil violations, like a parking ticket, and will not result in a point to your license. Nor will they bankrupt a driver financially. Violations start at $50 for going 11 mph over the speed limit. And, the first ticket is a warning for those who are speeding 11-15 mph over the speed limit. People under the poverty line can petition to have their tickets reduced by 80%. People up to 250% above the poverty line can petition to have their tickets reduced by 50%.

Not a single penny of the money generated by these cameras will go to a city or county’s General Fund. Every penny raised must be spent on the program itself, traffic calming measures and re-engineering roads to make them safer. If a city doesn’t spend the revenue within three years, it’s diverted to the state’s Active Transportation Program, which funds pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. But never will these funds go to boosting city coffers for non-transportation uses.

As an added privacy protection, the camera does not take an image of the driver, only the license plate. In fact, facial recognition software is prohibited and images captured are confidential. For those who are not ticketed the image of the license plate will be destroyed within five days. For those who are penalized, the image is deleted 60 days after final disposition of the case.

I know people will be concerned about what it’s like to drive into a camera-controlled zone because every single one of us has driven by a speed trap at least once in our lives. There will be a sign warning drivers to reduce their speed for the camera ahead. For those who are approaching a school zone, flashing beacons will have to be on to indicate the school zone speed limit is in effect. It is only the most determined lead-footed drivers that will actually run afoul of these cameras because, to be ticketed, they have to be going 11 miles an hour over the posted speed limit.

None of us love getting a ticket, but traffic violence is a choice. We lose partners, spouses, mothers, fathers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings, to random acts of traffic violence every single day in California. By slowing down, our streets will be safer for all.

Let’s stop traffic violence. AB 645 will give our communities here, and across California, an opportunity to slow traffic down where we need it the most. It’s going to save lives.

What are your thoughts on AB 645? As always, please feel free to reach out to me with any comments, questions, or concerns through my District Office at (818) 558-3043 or

Assemblymember Laura Friedman