As part of a pilot program that’s bringing speed camera technology to the city’s most dangerous streets, San Jose is gearing up to install 33 of the devices next year at high-risk intersections, with the ultimate goal of reducing the dozens of people killed and hundreds severely injured each year in traffic collisions.
This year, 45 people in San Jose have died from traffic-related incidents. Of those deaths, 24 were pedestrians. Last year saw 65 deaths, the highest number of fatalities in the city’s modern history.
Signed into law in September, AB 645 is the first time speed cameras will be brought to California’s roads.
When and where the cameras in San Jose will be placed is still being hammered out. Councilmember Pam Foley, who has spearheaded the city’s efforts to create safer roads, says she wants them installed by the end of 2024. In addition to the riskiest intersections, the program also calls for cameras to be placed around school zones.
“It can’t happen quick enough for me,” she said. “We’re losing too many lives.”
The city has identified 40 of its most dangerous street corridors, where the highest proportion of deaths and fatalities occur. Here is where they are located, along with the schools that surround them.
Before the cameras are placed on San Jose’s roads, the city will be conducting outreach to the areas likely to see the technology and councilmembers must approve the city’s final plan. State law allows cities to use the devices through 2032 and prohibits them from clustering the cameras in one neighborhood. Since the city can only procure about three dozen cameras, not every dangerous street will be covered.
San Francisco, Oakland and three Southern California cities also are part of the program.
Drivers who are speeding will get a warning in the first 60 days after a camera is installed — and the first violation after that is also a warning.
Once penalties kick in, drivers going 11 to 15 miles per hour over the speed limit will be sent a $50 ticket. Sixteen to 25 miles over the limit is a $100 ticket and 26 miles over is $200. Those who exceed 100 miles per hour will receive a $500 penalty. The penalties will not count towards points on a driver’s record and only photo evidence is collected, not video. The state requires the city to spend the fees it collects on traffic calming projects.
After starting its own program, New York City saw a 73 percent drop in speeding in the areas where cameras were placed, according to Julia B. Griswold of UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center. Streets with cameras also experienced lower rates of injury. Higher speeds not only lead to more severe injury or death but also reduce the reaction time of drivers, she said.
“Your field of vision narrows as you’re driving faster,” said Griswold. “You’re less likely to see humans or objects that are a little outside (of your view).”
AB 645 marked legislators’ fourth attempt to get speed cameras on California’s roadways. Assemblymember Laura Friedman and former legislator David Chiu had tried since 2017 to get a similar law passed, but it never reached the floor for a vote.
This year, San Jose’s police union, which had traditionally opposed the technology due to concern it would strip away jobs, came out in support. San Jose’s Mayor Matt Mahan believes the cameras could help take pressure off of the city’s police department, which currently faces staffing issues.
Much of the opposition to the law this year came from the American Civil Liberties Union, which expressed privacy concerns over how the data would be utilized.
The advocacy group sued and later settled with Marin County last year after accusing officials of sharing automated license plate reader data with out-of-state agencies and the federal government.
Under the pilot program’s provisions, facial recognition technology is prohibited and the cameras can only capture the back of a vehicle and its license plate.
The city can only keep the camera data for five days — or 60 if a violation is issued. The law also calls for the data not to be shared with any other government agency.