Governor Brown Vetoes CA Bill to Increase Fines in School Zones

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 1151, which would have raised fines for traffic violations in school zones. The legislation, authored by Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres), was co-sponsored by the Safe Routes to School National Coalition, transportation advocates TransForm, and the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program. The bill was designed to reduce traffic violations near schools, and money raised from the fine increases would have been earmarked for programs that encourage walking and biking.

CA Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have increased driver violation fines and dedicated the revenue to providing safer passage for students walking to school. Photo: Elizabeth Edwards, table4five.net

Governor Brown, who is known to dislike bills that raise fines for revenue, called S.B. 1151 regressive in his veto message [PDF]:

Increasing traffic fines as the method to pay for transportation fund activities is a regressive increase that affects poor people disproportionately. Making safety improvements is obviously important, but not by increasing traffic fines.

“The governor’s framing is unfortunate,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller of the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership. “We see it differently, because the revenue would have funded infrastructure to address the underlying problem of lack of safety near schools. We thought it was a positive way to achieve results.”

The bill originally would have doubled fines in school zones, similar to temporary fine zones instituted to protect workers in construction zones. However, that would have required local jurisdictions to post signs around schools warning of the double fines, and legislators said they didn’t want to impose the cost of new signs on school districts and cities.

Under the compromise passed by the legislature, the bill would have raised the base fines for violations by $35. That would have raised the current range of fines from $238 to $366 to between $273 and $410.

“We are really disappointed, obviously,” said Ward-Waller. “Especially after the legislature supported it unanimously.”

“Children are overwhelmingly the victims of car collisions near schools, especially in low-income communities where there are no safe sidewalks or bike lanes,” Bianca Taylor of TransForm wrote in a blog post. “As the cost of driving gets more expensive, we need to make sure that low-income neighborhoods have equal access to safe, affordable alternatives to cars, so that all children can safely get to school.”

  • voltairesmistress

    My impression is that most traffic collisions involving children near schools occur from parents driving their own children to and from those schools, then hitting somebody else’s kids. Seems like schools would do well to separate the drop-off area from all other entrances, and discourage private car pick-up/drop-off by making it less convenient than any other option. Fines cannot compete with design and policy changes at every school that would help all children be safer.

  • calwatch

    As mainstream media have reported this isincorrect. The base fine increase of $35 does not include the percentage ticket taxes which jack up the fines by $129. http://blog.sfgate.com/crime/2014/09/22/brown-veto-message-35-school-traffic-fine-was-actually-lots-higher/ At the risk of sounding like Herbie Huff, ticky tack fines which lead near poverty people into a downward spiral, combined with class and racial profiling of “suspicious” vehicles from small town cops, is the wrong direction we need to go. Adding $129 to fines is not going to create a deterrent effect. We should not rely on traffic fines to fund transportation improvements… That is poor policy and I agree with the Governor on this.

  • Joe Linton

    But if fines help fund those design changes, it could have been a virtuous cycle

  • voltairesmistress

    Yeah, but I tend to agree with Calwatch (above) who points out that traffic fines are terribly hard on some people while a mere trifling annoyance to others. High fines come suddenly and contribute a lot to a downward spiral of debt and insecurity for the working and middle class. But the economically comfortable just shrug them off. Governor Brown did the right thing.

  • davistrain

    I have read that In one of the Scandinavian countries, traffic fines are imposed on a sliding scale tied to the offender’s income. Not sure if this is still the case, and I doubt that this method would be adopted in the US, but it does seem like economic justice.

  • Reynolds Cameron

    Gee, maybe those folks will think twice about operating their vehicle in a manner that is likely to maim or kill a child.

  • Reynolds Cameron

    Absurd for Brown to discuss this issue as a matter of funding. Next time a child is run over in a school zone, expect to hear him to bemoan the loss of federal dollars to the school district, rather than the life that he could have saved if not for his backwards ideology.

  • MaxUtil

    Unfortunately, traffic fines have a bad tendency to be enforced like a lot of other laws in that they are applied much more heavily on lower income and non-white people. That doesn’t excuse dangerous driving around schools and I’m all for enforcement. I just don’t know that this would have done much of anything to discourage dangerous driving.

    Law enforcement fines are a much less than ideal way to fund specific programs.

  • Reynolds Cameron

    If that is true (which I am thoroughly unconvinced), then perhaps it is because low income people – who are generally not as smart or educated as high-income people (as evidenced by the amount of wealth they have earned) – are less likely to follow the rules of the road or to be able to consider the impact of driving too fast, or while intoxicated, etc. Regardless, punishing bad behavior and preventing deaths is exactly what our state should be doing. SHAME ON MR. BROWN!

  • DrunkEngineer

    Near-poverty people who choose to own a car are making a bad financial decision. A transit pass or bicycle would be the more affordable alternative, and avoid the risk of fines altogether.

  • Reynolds Cameron

    DrunkEngineer is right: if you can afford to own a car, you are not “in poverty.”

  • Reynolds Cameron

    Better yet, have kids walk to their local schools, instead of the regressive anti-walk-to-school policies that SFUSD pursues.

  • Chris

    I think the issue is that poor kids whose families can’t afford a car are the ones most likely to get run over in a school zone (especially in poorer areas that lack bike/ped infrastructure). That risk might lead some poorer families to make the risky financial decision of car ownership over risking their children’s safety in letting them walk. I don’t know the solutions, but I bet some families are motivated by those factors.

  • calwatch

    When they are using the car to go to work because the transit system is unreliable, too infrequent, or whatever, that’s a good financial decision. Bicycling is great but many people don’t feel safe bicycling on the streets, or don’t have the skills to maintain a bicycle for daily commuting purposes. (My mom commuted by bike for years, in Wal Mart bikes that she tossed whenever they broke. That’s fine for a four mile commute, but not so much for ten miles.) Or they are commuting between different jobs, have to shuttle their kids to different relatives, or have other obligations. It’s easy for someone who never lived in poverty to say these things, and for single poor people I would strongly recommend not driving. But for those with families, making a choice to drive is not a bad idea.

  • calwatch

    You mean like making sure schools are diverse in terms of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds?

    Studies have shown that children who grew up in poverty learn more, are better behaved socially, and have higher aspirations when they go to schools without a high concentration of other poor students. Also students who go to school with people of other races are more tolerant as adults. SFUSD through a magnet school and application process is trying to increase the outcomes for poor and minority children, which in my mind is vastly more important than whether they have to walk a half mile or be driven five miles to school.

  • calwatch

    Ultimately it’s the desire of parents to see their children enter the front door threshold. In most instances you can park your car a quarter mile, drop the child off five minutes away, and they will make it inside just fine. But years of helicopter parenting and peer pressure have rendered that option untenable.

  • Reynolds Cameron

    If you don’t like the level of diversity in the neighborhoods, lobby the city to tear down the public housing projects and give its residents enough money to buy a house in another neighborhood. God knows the property those buildings are sitting on could be sold for enough to pay for each resident’s personal mansion in almost any neighborhood.

  • brianmojo

    I was thinking about this idea the other day. It would be a really good thing to implement, especially in economically diverse areas.

  • voltairesmistress

    With a name like Reynolds Cameron, and the comment that poor people are generally not as smart as rich people, I wonder at which prep school you were a boarder.

  • voltairesmistress

    You have never been poor, have you, RC? Absolute shite you are spouting.

  • Reynolds Cameron

    I said “generally.” The public schools I attended taught its students the perils of argumentum ad hominem. Apparently you missed this lecture. If you can point to a study that shows a negative correlation between success and IQ, please cite it.

  • Reynolds Cameron

    Again with the ad hominem. I am an owner of a BMR unit in SF (though that program is a complete and total scam) and have elected to ride a bike and take transit even while living in Los Angeles and Orange County – in part because of economics, in part life style. FYI, being poor is more a state of mind than anything. I have many friends and relatives who rarely could afford three meals a day, but they never considered themselves “poor.”

  • DrunkEngineer

    .

    For single poor people I would strongly recommend not driving. But or those with families, making a choice to drive is not a bad idea.

    On the contrary, the single person does not have to pay for things like daycare, college tuition, or getting a larger house. For families living in poverty, finances are more stressed, making owning a car an even worse financial decision.

    Let’s run some numbers:

    The annual cost for owning a new-ish car is more than $5k per year. If a person invests that money (instead of wasting it on a car) and gets 5% return, they will have earned $350,000 over 30 years.

    For an older used car, let’s say the annual cost is $2k per year. With a 5% return, that is $145,000 over 30 years.

    This is why when you hear someone say they need a car for work, what they usually mean is they need work to afford the car.

  • calwatch

    On the other hand, the costs of day care overtime ($1 a minute in some instances), emergency taxi or amateur taxi service fare when the kid has to be picked up from school early or needs to go to the doctor’s office, and the time spent on transit not being spent with the child or doing stuff for the family (like making meals or reading to them) makes driving the better option. Plus most low income people have jobs that require punctuality, whereas professionals like myself can call in late and make up the time as needed. Also, lower income people often take jobs that don’t have traditional 8-5 working hours. Growing up my dad always worked a swing shift so he would be in traffic going to work, adding to afternoon congestion, but would leave work at a time when transit has stopped running, even if there was a direct bus to work (as there was).

  • calwatch

    This sounds like the libertarian canard that you can take the money spent on rail transit construction and maintenance and buy BMWs for all of the new riders created. What nonsense.

    It’s been shown that city wide schools tremendously increase VMT and greenhouse gas emissions over neighborhood schools. http://goo.gl/Ambnqb The issue is that they also tremendously increase student engagement, increase student learning as measured by standardized tests, and improve social cohesion. So the parents driving their kids five miles to go to school is incrementally killing the planet, but if they don’t do it, the kid has a greater chance of going on welfare or to prison and being a drain to society, because they are stuck in a failing neighborhood school. Or they could put their kid on a school bus, except that they don’t exist in many areas. Personally I’ll take the city wide school.

  • Reynolds Cameron

    Then focus on improving the schools, not destroying the environment and depriving all students a fair chance to walk or bike to school. Study after study shows a clear link between mental alertness and daily exercise. Forcing kids to sit on a polluting bus for 2 hours a day (depriving them of much-needed sleep) instead of allowing them to walk or bike to a great local school (why aren’t all schools great?!!!) is wrong on so many levels.

  • andrelot

    Nobody thinks traffic violations near schools are a good thing.

    However, tying fines or any type to some program-specific funding is a horrible way to finance any public policy, full of unintended consequences. It create a perverse incentives for overzealous enforcement and outright corruption.

    Doubt it? Just take a look at the many “gotcha” schemes (and sometimes outright corruption) several small towns adopt regarding traffic enforcement, because tickets are a relevant source of money for local court systems.

    To keep motivations in check and greed at bay, all fines collected by any enforcement agent on individual citizen behavior should go straight to the federal budget, where it won’t matter much in the grand scheme of $$. So if fines for something exist, they are there as a deterrent only, not as a source of money the enforcers can then use to bolster their own budget and collect yet more fines. Anything other than that create the sort of negative incentives we need to root out.

  • DrunkEngineer

    According to the text of the bill, the additional fine revenue would go into the State’s fund for Active Transportation. Thus, I don’t see any financial incentive for a local police force to abuse its authority, because they would not be receiving any of the ticket revenue.

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