State bill would automate speed enforcement in San Jose
The Tully Road and Senter Road intersection is one of the most dangerous locations in San Jose. File photo.

    San Jose resident Limin Cao was walking with her daughter and their dog on a marked crosswalk on Blossom Hill Road on March 26 when Cao and the dog were struck and killed by a car, which fled from the scene.

    To help reduce deaths like these, the San Jose City Council is supporting Assembly Bill 645, which would automate speed enforcement in San Jose and other California cities. If approved, the bill would create a pilot program to use cameras to enforce speed limits on the highest-injury streets in San Jose. Violators would be fined and mailed tickets for speeding.

    “I consider it another tool in the toolbox on how we can be more efficient with the limited resources we have,” San Jose Councilmember Pam Foley said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “Particularly when we have high pedestrian deaths that are a result of people speeding.”

    AB 645, co-authored by Assemblymembers Marc Berman and Alex Lee, would also establish the pilot program in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Glendale and Long Beach. A state transportation committee is set to review the bill in a few weeks.

    Opposing the bill are the Peace Officers Research Association of California and San Jose Police Officers’ Association. Tom Saggau, spokesperson for the San Jose police union, said members are concerned speed camera technology will replace officers.

    Police presence in neighborhoods helps reduce incidents of speeding in ways that cameras do not, Saggau said.

    “Having that presence is going to be the deterrent, as opposed to a sign that says, ‘You’re on camera,'” he said.

    San Jose continues to face a shortage of police officers, with fewer than 1,200 cops for more than a million residents, making it one of the smallest police departments of any major city. These low staffing numbers have been connected to slow response times for high-priority calls, such as those involving the present threat of major injury or death.

    Councilmembers appeared surprised to hear that the San Jose police union opposes AB 645. During Tuesday’s meeting, Foley questioned city staff as to why the union would go against the council’s direction on supporting the legislation.

    “We know that speeding is directly related to the high level of fatalities that we have on our streets,” Foley said, adding that San Jose had 65 traffic deaths last year.

    Traffic deaths in San Jose have been increasing for at least a decade, more than doubling from 29 in 2010 to 60 in 2021. Blossom Hill Road was identified as one of the most dangerous streets in the city in 2018, though most of the highest-fatality corridors are in East San Jose. The city recently received funding to help redesign Monterey Road into a safer street for pedestrians and cyclists.

    San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan agreed with Foley on the necessity of the program, and also said he doesn’t expect it to replace the need for more police personnel.

    “This is a valuable tool at a time when we’re seeing rising pedestrian, cyclist and other traffic-related injuries and deaths,” Mahan said on Tuesday.

    Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.

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