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California law means speed limits go up along dangerous streets

L.A. speed limits are going up even on streets with high crash rates due to a state speed trap law.

Los Angeles has committed itself to Vision Zero, which is an initiative adopted by cities around the world to reduce traffic deaths to zero. It is surprising, therefore, that while other Vision Zero cities are reducing speed limits along their most dangerous thoroughfares, in Los Angeles speed limits are actually going up on some streets that have already seen a high number of pedestrian accidents. Ironically, as 89.3 KPCC reports, the city is being forced to raise its speed limits on such streets in an effort to catch speeding drivers because of a state speed trap law that critics say puts drivers and pedestrians in danger.

California’s speed trap law

California has a so-called speed trap law that is designed to prevent counties and law enforcement agencies from keeping the speed limits too low along certain roads in an effort to hand out more speeding tickets. Under the law, cities are required to conduct regular traffic surveys so that the posted speed limit reflects the actual rate of traffic flow.

The problem, however, is that in the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis staffing shortages meant that Los Angeles fell far behind in carrying out these traffic surveys. That means that police are unable to use speed radars and other devices on the many streets that now have expired speed limits. For example, the number of speeding tickets issued by the LAPD fell by 77 percent from 2010 to 2017.

Critics call law absurd and dangerous

That has left the city in the position where it is now scrambling to update speed limits on hundreds of miles of city streets. However, given that speed enforcement has been constrained for so long, drivers have become accustomed to getting away with driving at higher speeds. In turn, that means that the normal traffic flow on many streets has increased in recent years, which will mean that speed limits will likewise increase.

In some instances, the speed trap law means that speed limits are increasing on streets that are already dangerous for pedestrians. As the Los Angeles Times reports, for example, Zelzah Avenue has one of the highest rates of accidents resulting in severe injury or death for cyclists and pedestrians. However, because of California’s speed trap law, the city recently raised the speed limit along Zelzah from 35 mph to 45 mph. If the city hadn’t raised the limit, then police would not be able to use radar guns to enforce the speed limit.

Critics say such examples show that the law is both absurd and dangerous. Speed is a major factor in fatal pedestrian accidents. While a pedestrian hit by a car going 20 mph has a 90 percent chance of survival, that chance of survival plummets to 10 percent if the car is going 40 mph.

Help for injured pedestrians

As the above article shows, Southern California can at times be dangerous for vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. Anybody who has been injured in an accident should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. While compensation is often available, making a claim can be a complex and arduous process. An experienced attorney can guide clients through the claims process and help them fight for the compensation they may be entitled to.

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