Fontana, Unlike Redlands, Balks Over Raising Limits Where Motorists Speed

A half of a year after the Redlands City Council raised the ire of a cross section of the community there by increasing the speed limit on 45 spans of roadway in that 36.43-square mile city because well over three quarters of drivers in that jurisdiction were exceeding the previously posted limits in those areas, the Fontana City Council resisted doing the same this month.
At issue is a statewide law and speed enforcement policy which calls upon cities to use a standard of the 85th percentile of the average speed along a given road as the speed limit that is to be posted. Cities are required to do a several-day long survey of speeds driven along its streets and roads at least once every seven to eight years. Under a law that has been in effect for decades, along with multiple court interpretations of that law over that period of time, if more than 15 percent of drivers surveyed along a particular stretch of road exceed the posted speed limit by more than ten miles an hour, anyone cited for excessive speed along those roads who cite the survey can have their speeding citations automatically dismissed.To maintain the enforceability of their speed limits, cities will increase the speed limits at those locations.
That is what Redlands did in December. Many residents, however, believing that those drivers exceeding the speed limit previously, whether they were cited or not, were endangering other motorists and pedestrians, objected to the city’s decision. Some of those opposed to the raising of the speed limit said that doing so was tantamount to rewarding those who consistently broke the law. They and others also opposed to the speed increase pointed out that the Redlands Police Department’s traffic enforcement effort was already anemic at best, so preserving the effectiveness of the citation process in court was a futile endeavor, as very few speeders ended up facing a magistrate anyway. Keeping the lower speed limits in place would more effectively ensure safety they argued, since most – though not all – drivers use the posted speed limit as a guide as to how fast they should drive.
Despite the Redlands’ residents importuning of their city council to keep the speed limits in place, the council raised the speed limits as mapped out by Redlands Municipal Utilities and Engineering Department Director John Harris based upon a survey summary by City Engineer Goutam Dobey. As fate would have it, within 36 hours of the city council’s action, a 16-year-old bicyclist was run down by an 89-year-old woman driving a 2012 Ford Escape in the 1400 block of 5th Avenue, near Marion Road, a short distance from Moore Middle School.
In Fontana, based on similar traffic speed flow surveys done in that city, Jeff Kim, the city’s engineering manager, submitted for the city council’s consideration proposed speed ordinance changes that called for upping the speed limits at various locations throughout the city.
Kim, in a way that was reminiscent of Dobey’s presentation in Redlands in December, told the Fontana City Council that by using the once-every-seven-years speed survey as a guide, it council could set the city’s speed limits, and could keep the ones now in place intact if 85 percent of the motorists along those routes or more have stayed within the current limit. The upshot was that he urged the council to increase the current set of limits that were set in 2017 in those cases where the 85 percentile adherence to the limit was not being met.
The council, however, cognizant that a fair number of Fontana motorists are not only exceeding the speed limit but traveling in excess of a speed that is safe on many streets, was reluctant to make any upward changes in the current speed limits.
Upping the limits would incite drivers to speed ever faster in some circumstances, the council reasoned, putting themselves and others using the roads at greater risk. Upping the speed limit would encourage further disregard of safe driving conduct, they said.
While Kim maintained that increasing the limits could be characterized as “reasonable” and “justified” and in conformance with the speed a majority of the city’s drivers are moving at on some spans of road in the city, the council collectively, indicating it wanted drivers going slower and not faster, held off on approving what Kim had offered, asking him to conduct another traffic survey, after which the council will revisit the issue.

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