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San Francisco Applauds Recommendations of State’s Task Force to End Traffic Fatalities

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates the Municipal Railway (Muni), along with other city agencies, elected officials and key stakeholders, today announced support for recommendations from the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) to advance Vision Zero goals.

“This report shows what we have known for years—traffic fatalities increase with vehicle speed,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). “Automated speed enforcement would allow us to reduce speeds and save lives. We have the technology to help us get to zero traffic fatalities, but we just need to be able to use it.”

About the Process

The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) convened the State’s Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force in the summer 2019. The Task Force was established by AB 2363 (Friedman) to identify changes in speed setting methodologies and other steps that can reduce traffic injuries and fatalities. Given that speed is the leading predictor of whether someone survives a crash, changing speed setting methodologies has significant potential for saving lives. The Task Force also explored complementary strategies, such as automated speed enforcement to reduce speeding and save lives.

“The Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force further confirms what we know to be true locally,” said Board of Supervisor’s President Norman Yee. “Speed kills and we must use every tool and technology to prevent collisions and fatalities. The data is undeniable, and San Francisco must lower speed limits and implement Automated Speed Enforcement.”

The Task Force includes 25 members, representing government agencies and advocacy groups, including representatives from AARP, AAA, California Highway Patrol, and CalBIKE. The City and County of San Francisco is represented on the Task Force by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). The San Francisco Department of Public Health and Walk SF are also represented on the Advisory Group, which provides input on the work of the Task Force. CalSTA convened the Task Force for three workshops over Summer/Fall 2019 to provide input on recommendations.

“Every day, traffic collisions injure nearly ten people on San Francisco streets. Every two weeks, someone dies in a car crash, mostly pedestrians,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “Most of those crashes were preventable. While we understand there is a tension between motorist convenience and life safety, we also know that speed is the biggest factor in crash severity.”

Impact for San Francisco

Through the work of the Task Force, the report includes findings and recommendations for changes to speed limits that will help San Francisco to save lives in support of Vision Zero.  If advanced as legislation and enacted into law, these recommendations would bring down speeds where people are dying and protect vulnerable populations where they live and go as they move in the City. For instance, San Francisco could: 

  • Lower speeds on the High Injury Network – San Francisco’s High Injury Network (HIN) represents the 13% of streets where 75% of severe and fatal injuries occur. Greater flexibility for setting speeds on the High Injury Network would allow San Francisco to reduce speeds on streets with the highest proportion of severe and fatal injuries.
  • Lower speeds on streets near vulnerable populations, such as streets close to senior facilities, homeless shelters, parks or playgrounds, and healthcare facilities – In San Francisco, some communities and road users are disproportionately impacted by traffic deaths, such as seniors and people experiencing homelessness. Greater flexibility to reduce speeds on streets near vulnerable populations allows San Francisco to elevate equity in working to save lives.
  • Consider the use of automated speed enforcement (ASE) to compliment traditional enforcement – ASE is a proven tool to reduce speeding, injuries and fatalities. Cities in California require legislative authority to implement automated technology for enforcing traffic laws. This report summarizes policy considerations related to ASE, including enforcement location, notices, privacy, citation type, and use of revenue. ASE in San Francisco could complement traditional enforcement efforts to reduce dangerous driving and save more lives. 

Even with these near-term changes, the CalSTA report also identifies longer term policy recommendations for consideration that better take into account how a street is used and by whom, how protected bicyclists and pedestrians are from vehicles, and how likely it is that there will be conflict between vehicles and other street users. A long term, context-sensitive approach to how speeds are set in California would support San Francisco in setting speeds that protect vulnerable road users, such as bicyclists and pedestrians.

“The San Francisco Police Department works closely with our public health and traffic safety partners to identify and implement strategies to make our streets safer to walk, bicycle and drive,” said Police Chief William Scott. “We support the careful, strategic deployment of technologies that may help us reduce traffic-related fatalities and injuries.”

Alignment with Vision Zero

The focus of the CalSTA report – Urban Speed Limit Setting and Automated Enforcement – are two transformative policies recommended in San Francisco’s 2019 Vision Zero Action Strategy.  Transformative Policies are evidence-based, high-impact initiatives proven to save lives and reduce severe injuries. Advancing these policies from CalSTA’s report can significantly move San Francisco towards our Vision Zero goal.

“This report affirms that communities need to be able to set speed limits based on safety, particularly on roads with high crash rates and high numbers of people walking and biking,” said Jodie Medeiros, Walk San Francisco. “The state now recognizes that the current approach to setting speed limits is outdated and must change to combat rising traffic injuries and fatalities. We are eager for the report’s speed setting recommendations to move forward immediately so cities like San Francisco can quickly act to slow our streets to save lives.”

For more Task Force information, please go to Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force Website.