Explanation of Rising Speed Limits: “The Public Votes with the Gas Pedal”

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In recent weeks, CityWatch has done a fantastic job explaining why speed limits are rising throughout the city and why those limits are determined by speeding drivers and not the communities that have to deal with the speeding traffic.

State law requires that speed limits are periodically reviewed for traffic laws to be enforced with radar guns, but the method to determine the appropriate speed is designed to protect speeding traffic not the communities they pass through.  First, a speed study is done during non-peak hours to determine how fast people are currently driving on the road.  Then, the proposed new speed limit is set at the highest 85th percentile.  In short, if 100 people drive down a road with a thirty five mile per hour limit, and 85 of them drive down it at 45 miles per hour; the speed limit will rise by ten miles per hour.

When the practice of raising speed limits was questioned at a recent City Council transportation committee hearing, an LADOT representative explained that raising speed limits to cater to fast moving cars is a sign of a healthy democracy.  "The public votes with the gas pedal," he explained.

Perhaps it’s time for some voter suppression.

If people are routinely speeding on local streets, why isn’t the answer to more consistently enforce the  speed limit?  If drivers know there are enforced speed limits around certain areas, they slow down.  If so many cars are going 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit that a traffic survey discovers that one in five drivers are confident to speed around local streets that is more a reflection on a city that sees fast moving cars as the goal of its transportation planning then anything else.

Let’s be clear.  Study after study find that fast moving vehicles on local roads kill pedestrians at a rate that dwarfs the amount of American soldiers killed overseas every year; yet enforcement of laws to slow down traffic and save pedestrian lives is so lax in Los Angeles that state law is actually forcing speed limits to rise on our streets and roads.

Perhaps its time to ask the LAPD to stop harassing cyclists and pedestrians and do a better job enforcing speeding laws.

Photo: Roland/Flickr

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