Traffic fines on 19th Ave. could soon be double
February 23, 2008 3:44 PM
Bad drivers beware.
A new piece of legislation was introduced on Feb. 22 by state Sen. Leland Yee to make the 19th Avenue corridor a double fine zone for drivers who violate traffic laws.
The corridor, also known as Highway 1, begins at Junipero Serra at 19th Avenue and extends to Lake Street at Park Presidio.
"19th Avenue is unique because it's a state highway right in the middle of a neighborhood,” Yee said .
The state senator has been working on a double fine bill for over four years now, but one was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and two were stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee.
“We have worked diligently with the administration and the transportation committees to develop language that all sides can be happy with, and that will finally provide the kind of protection our pedestrians and bicyclists need,” Yee said.
SB1419 now has support from the chairs of the Senate Transportation committee, the Assembly and the governor, Yee said. “It's going to be couple more months until the bill passes, but there has been a lot of support from everyone."
Currently, base fines for traffic violations range from $25 (1-15 mph over the speed limit) to $500 (reckless driving causing bodily injury). If SB1419 passes, those fines will increase to $137.50 for speeding and $2,750 for causing bodily injury.
SF State student Jarrod Minto, 22, is skeptical about the new bill. "The measure might work, but it won't stop people from driving recklessly or double parking," said the creative writing and Japanese major.
San Francisco Supervisor Carmen Chu and other pedestrian advocacy groups are in support of SB1419.
“The senator has been a great champion of safety and concern of 19th Avenue,” Chu said. “We have been [having] talks on how to enforce and educate people on safety.”
Bob Plantwood, of San Francisco Walk, said the new legislation will be a “powerful tool to deter” drivers from violating traffic laws.
“We have to raise the fines to a certain level to make an impact,” he said.
The bill will be enforced for five years and then evaluated by the Department of Traffic and other agencies to see if there are any improvements of pedestrian safety during those five years.
The San Francisco Police Department reported 555 total collisions of automobiles from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2007. From the same period, there were 55 pedestrian-related accidents and six pedestrian deaths.
Between July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, there were 84 total collisions, nine pedestrian related accidents and one death.
“The San Francisco Police Department appreciates any effort to improve the safety of 19th Avenue,” Lt. Doug Shoshone of Taraval station said.
Last October, SF State student Sandy Kim, 21, was struck by a car and killed on the sidewalk at the intersection of 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. The following month, a new left turn signal was placed at the intersection.
Besides SB1419, several other improvements to the highway have already been made or are underway.
The first phase of improvements will cost $4 million and will include replacements of traffic signals and the installation of pedestrian countdown signals at 10 intersections. The second and third phases will include the rest of the intersections, according to Yee's press release.
“Caltrans and the [San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency] are sponsoring a signal upgrade to make sure the traffic signals have countdown signals for the pedestrians,” said Jack Fleck, a San Francisco city engineer. “A contract has been awarded, so it should be a few weeks until work begins on this project,” Fleck said .
Recent improvements that have been made include the timing of traffic signals, crosswalk visibility and public awareness campaigns.
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