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A new year brings a new way to determine California speed limits

To say Los Angeles has a speeding problem would be an understatement as both residents and visitors can attest. However, the issues are self-inflicted because the speed limits on the streets throughout the City of Angels have seen speed limits slowly increase over several decades.

On the first day of the new year, L.A. will begin the process of rebooting their determination of speed limits.

The end of an archaic and dangerous rule

Assembly Bill 43 will supplant the longtime “85 percent rule,” part of California’s vehicle code where a members of the Department of Transportation monitor how fast people are driving. From there, a new speed limit is established at the 85th percentile, which is ultimately determined by 15 percent of the fastest drivers.

The resulting “drip, drip, drip,” particularly between 2016 and 2020 where speed limits consistently increased, has played a significant role in the deaths of 640 pedestrians. Even more troubling was the fact the streets that kept increasing speed limits have high frequencies of serious and fatal collisions.

With the advent of AB43 during the dawning of a new year, cities will begin to have more control in lowering their own speed limits where safety issues exist, particularly when it comes to the significant presence of pedestrians. Those with a track record of crashes could have their speed limits reduced. Streets with a history of pedestrian collisions will also become eligible for speed reductions.

The only downside is the actual application of the law that will not go into effect until June 30, 2024, a full two-and-a-half years. The only hopes for faster implementation is the state launching an online portal that adjudicates new traffic infractions.

The battle between safety and a bureaucratic process not known for expediency is about to begin with significantly high stakes that could lead to even more deaths in the coming year or two.