Feb 1, 2024 - News

California legislation aims to add speed monitors to cars

Car gear shift with a gavel in the place of the stick

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

California's new cars could have internal speed monitors starting in 2027 as state lawmakers seek to reduce traffic fatalities statewide.

Why it matters: The proposed legislation aims to combat traffic-related deaths, which are spiking in California and nationwide, rising to what the U.S. Department of Transportation called a "national crisis."

  • A recent study suggests slower speeds on major roads could also help reduce the number of pedestrian deaths nationwide.

Driving the news: State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced bills last week that would require all new vehicles built or sold in California to have smart devices that automatically prevent a car from going 10mph over the legal limit.

  • Of note: California would be the first state to require cars be equipped with speed-limiting technology, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

What they're saying: "We've all seen situations on our streets where a vehicle is speeding down a busy street with vulnerable people close by — at best it's unsettling, and at worst people lose their lives," Robin Pam, an organizer with KidSafe SF, said in a written statement.

Zoom in: In San Francisco, speed-related fatalities and serious injuries have risen over the past decade, traffic data show.

  • 111 such fatalities and serious injuries were reported in 2022, the most recent year for which data is available.
  • Among all crashes citywide in 2022, 317 caused serious injuries, 42 of which were fatal, according to the data.

Meanwhile, a city report last year found San Francisco had more traffic fatalities during the pandemic than in the three years preceding it.

  • In that report, San Francisco's transportation agency noted its Vision Zero goal of having zero traffic-related fatalities in the city by this year would take longer.

Zoom out: Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a federal mandate of speed-limiting technology and warning systems.

  • Several auto manufacturers, including Hyundai, already offer such features in their newest models, per the Chronicle.

What to watch: As the Chronicle reports, the bill is likely to face some opposition from the auto industry.

  • "There are times drivers may want to speed up enough to switch lanes, to move away from certain unsafe situations," Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told the Los Angeles Times.
  • "Our preference is for drivers to have the maximum ability to do that. We don't think technology or even most well-intentioned regulations should obstruct that."
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