California bill would make state the first to require in-vehicle speed limiting devices

California could become the first state to require certain new cars to be equipped with a device capable of limiting speed, if legislation proposed this week ultimately becomes law.

San Francisco-based state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) introduced a bill mandating many new vehicles — beginning with the 2027 model year — contain a so-called “intelligent speed limiter.”

This device would restrict the speed of the car to 10 mph above the speed limit — with specific exceptions as indicated by the bill. Emergency vehicles, for example, would be exempt, and the California Highway Patrol could authorize the system’s disabling in certain other cases.

“The alarming surge in road deaths is unbearable and demands an urgent response,” Wiener said in a statement, following the introduction of S.B. 961.

“There is no reason for anyone to be going over 100 miles per hour on a public road,” the state senator continued, noting that in 2020, the California Highway Patrol issued more than 3,000 tickets for this precise offense.

Intelligent speed limiters — which the state senator referred to as “speed governors” — prevent vehicles from surpassing a certain speed, by harnessing GPS and on-board camera data to determine limits on a specific roadway.

The National Transportation Safety Board, Wiener’s office stressed, has repeatedly recommended the installation of such technologies in all new passenger vehicles. These devices will also be required in all cars sold in the European Union beginning this July.

“Preventing reckless speeding is a commonsense approach to prevent these utterly needless and heartbreaking crashes,” Wiener said.

In addition to its focus on intelligent speed limiters, S.B. 961 would also require the installation of side guards on trucks and trailers. Such guards, according to Wiener’s office, could help “reduce the risk of cars and bikes being pulled underneath the truck during a crash.”

This equipment — which would be installed on every truck or trailer that weighs more than 10,000 pounds — would need to be able to provide crash protection for a midsize car at any angle and any speed up to 40 mph, per the bill.

Alongside the speed governor and side guard legislation, Wiener also introduced a second traffic safety bill — S.B. 960 — that would require Caltrans, the state transportation agency, to make physical improvements on state-owned surface streets.

Such improvements include new crosswalks and curb extensions, an effort to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, disabled community members and public transit users, per the bill.

By proposing these two pieces of legislation, Wiener is determined “to tackle vehicle fatalities” amid a pandemic-era surge in reckless driving, according to his office.

Traffic fatalities in California jumped by 22 percent from 2019 to 2022, in comparison to a 19 percent increase in the U.S. overall, his office stated, citing a recent report from TRIP: A National Transportation Research Nonprofit.

In 2022 alone, 4,407 Californians died in car crashes, out of 42,795 individuals across the entire country, per the report.

After introducing S.B. 960 and 961, collectively called the “SAFER California Streets Package,” Wiener stressed the importance of ensuring “a safer and more sustainable future.”

“Instead of leading the rise in traffic fatalities, California should be leading the nation in reducing needless deaths on our roadways,” the state senator added.

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