California Bill Threatens to Impose Speed Governor on New Cars

Grimes Canyon Road, Moorpark, California Unsplash/Sterling Davis

In an effort to curtail road deaths in his state, California Senator Scott Wiener (D–San Francisco) introduced a pair of bills, SB 960 and 961, last week. The bills are part of the Speeding and Fatality Emergency Reduction on California Streets (SAFER California Streets) package. SB 960 would require the state’s transportation department, Caltrans, to upgrade infrastructure to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, disabled citizens, and transit users. Those changes include new crosswalks and curb extensions, but SB 961 would mandate a manufacturer-installed speed limiter on all new cars beginning with the 2027 model year.

The bill also mandates underride guards on trucks to prevent the risk of cars and bikes getting caught beneath them in a crash.

The speed governor would arrive in the form of smart devices that could automatically cap a vehicle’s speed to just 10 miles above the posted legal limit. The bill would exempt emergency vehicles and would also allow the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol to authorize the system to be disabled on other vehicles based on specified, as yet undisclosed criteria.

Brandan Gillogly

The impetus for the pair of bills, says Senator Wiener, is the rise in traffic fatalities in the state. “The alarming surge in road deaths is unbearable and demands an urgent response. There is no reason for anyone to be going over 100 miles per hour on a public road, yet in 2020, California Highway Patrol issued over 3000 tickets for just that offense. Preventing reckless speeding is a commonsense approach to prevent these utterly needless and heartbreaking crashes.”

According to a recent report from TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit, between 2019 and 2022, California traffic deaths increased by 22 percent. Nationwide, the figure was 19 percent. The report adds that 4400 people died in car accidents in California in 2022.

Speed governors are nothing new. Many semi-trucks and fleet vehicles come equipped with them. Many new private vehicles, too, including new Volvos (112 mph), already have speed limiters on them. More often than not, these kick in at triple-digit velocities that most motorists rarely, if ever, approach.

The technology proposed uses GPS to verify local speed limits and prevent cars from going 10 miles per hour over that threshold. Among a number of unanswered questions, it’s unclear from the language of the bill how this would impact cars used, for example, as daily drivers during the week and then for track days on the weekend. Such questions and use cases will require consideration as the SAFER California Streets package moves through the legislative system.



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    Imagine getting on the I5 in a new car with a number of older cars coming at you at 90 MPH. You pull out and you are going to be at best 30 MPH slower than the coming traffic. Cars start to slam brakes, they swerve and people begin to crash.

    That my friends is the realty of this law. I have traveled I5 often and speeds are normally pretty high and the road congested. To pull out in a vehicle that can not attain the speed of traffic is not going to work. The differential in speed is more dangerous than the higher consistent speed of all the cars.

    What is more dangerous is this foolishness will spread to other states that generally follow California’s lead.

    Today the trouble is more about some idiot that take a Charger and makes a run in traffic or runs from the cops and ends up take people with them to the after life. Often these cars are stolen.

    What is proposed here is only going to make things worse not better. California could do better by enforcing the laws and making mandatory jail time. Right now they will hold you for very little anymore and it has become a lawless state.

    The speeds in California are also generally regulated by rolling speed blocks. They will take a few Chip cars and swerve to slow traffic. That is it. Photo radar would work better here since you do not want cars on the side of the freeway. But that needs to be watched as not to be abused.

    Traffic on the freeway is much like Daytona. If everyone is going along similar speeds it is ok but one slow car that gets in the way can crash the field and is normally black flagged. That is what this law will do create that slow car and he will get run over.

    I’m not for any government overreach, but in the article at least,it states no triple digit speeds. I wouldn’t think top speeds would be limited to 60 mph as you state,if so I’m done driving.

    As someone who drives in So Cal a lot, merging is way more nuanced than this. The highways tend to be wide and people go slow in the right lanes anyway. On the open road is a different story, but there is far less traffic there. The bigger problem, in my uninformed opinion, is people with enough money to buy more car than they know how to safely operate. Those Chargers aren’t stolen, they are driven by boomers who always wanted one and can’t run them safely. Maybe better drivers ed and required follow-ups every ten years or so would be better than a speed governor.

    I agree with what you say and sort of see the point of no triple digit speeds but nowhere in the article did I see that speed was the major attribute of deaths. I remember an insurance industry study that showed that 86% percent of all accidents were caused by unsafe and improper turns and lane changes.

    Virginia has a reputation as being a state not to be trifled with when it comes to vehicular shenanigans. They got that reputation by being strict about traffic and other vehicle-related laws. I may not like it as an enthusiast, but I ignore it at my peril. If CA enacted a law that mandated seizure and destruction of any car going over 100mph on a public road, it wouldn’t take more than a few demolished cars before people started getting the message. People drive in far excess of the speed limit because they do not fear the consequences. I’ve made that decision myself (allegedly, I mean, in Mexico). If the consequences start to outweigh the need for speed, behavior will change.

    Some States used to have similar laws. For example, Tennessee used to confiscate vehicles used in commission of a felony. Leasing killed those laws. When you lease a car, you don’t own it and the State can’t legally take the car from the owner when it’s the driver that committed the offense. Similar problems would surface involving stolen cars found to be driven at high speeds.

    If all the cars on California highways are eventually limited from speeding, won’t that put thousands of CHP officers out of work? Fleet sales of cruisers and motorcycles will plummet. Not to mention the glut of radar guns that’ll hit the market at cut-rate prices, which’ll kill the radar gun manufacturer’s industry. And what about the companies that print speeding tickets? That biz will dry up. Seems to me that the downstream effects of this could decimate the California economy! 😁

    They never had radar and LIDAR on feeways till 2007. Even now they seldom sit on the freeways.

    Traffic is normally so heavy and there is little room to pull over they don’t bother. I have a number of trips from LA to San Diego and back where just going with the flow of traffic is 90 MPH.

    They will take several cars and they will do a rolling road black to slow cars for accidents or just to slow cars down for a bit.

    If you get up in the farm valley area you can drive hours and never see an officer. Not much enforcement there.

    True in urban areas, but 50 miles north of LA on I5 there are radar traps everywhere all the way to the Oregon border. Since LA – SD is almost one continuous city at this point, that is not representative of the rest of the state. It IS, however, where the bulk of the accidents and deaths happen.

    Well since Senator Wieners’ proposal would use GPS to confirm the speed limit and to track your actual vehicle speed, the State could simply issue you a speeding ticket every time you speed. And with a little extra effort, automatically withdraw the fine from your bank account. The California government coffers would fill right up.

    When you mention GPS tracking, it triggered a thought: Constitutional law. The police have been limited in the use of GPS tracking by Supreme Court decision. I think a court appeal should occur as soon as the bill becomes law.
    I find it ironic that, in a state where street cams have encountered fierce resistance (San Diego, for privacy concerns), Big Brother plans to track individuals in order to limit their speed.
    Go figure.

    Wouldn’t work. It’s not the car getting cited but the driver, and this idea would never be able to detect the driver. If you get a photo speeding ticket and its clearly not you (but is your kid, for example) you simply prove its not you and you are off the hook. They demand that you tell them who it is but you have no duty to do their investigation for them, so tell them to pound sand. Ticket dismissed.

    What are the crash numbers due to distracted drivers like compared to speeding drivers? Put the phone away, get rid of the large screens and bring back my buttons!

    Speeding may not be the most responsible activity that one could engage in, but the ability to speed is hard-wired into American DNA. If California wasn’t the 6th largest world economy, I would propose reverse-seceding them into another country

    You have to give credit to Cali to come up with a law that will probably INCREASE the number of accidents. What are the Police supposed to do when “chasing” an older car without these devices? Those that want to travel fast are going to figure out a way of bypassing these limiters. ENFORCEMENT with a greater police presence is the only way to deter speeding and other distractive driving. However, traffic is heavy and difficult to pull someone over. Is the speeding side really the cause of accidents or is it because people are not paying attention to actually DRIVING the car.

    Just plain dangerous! Imagine have to get out of the way and not being able to accelerate! Want to do something productive to solve issues in California? Ticket the drivers driving the left lane like they own it. This would prevent swerving – oh by the way signal lights, when did they become optional?

    I think there should be some kind of interface between cell phone and vehicle and a data recorder and if you’re in a wreck it can be determined what exactly you were doing with your phone at the time of the accident- facetiming, facebooking, texting, watching a video… and it can be used against you.

    Babylon Bee just reported that California will soon be the first state in the nation to ban heterosexual marriages. So putting a limiter on speed is nothing to complain about.

    Did anyone else notice this sentence in the story: “The bill would exempt emergency vehicles and would also allow the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol to authorize the system to be disabled on other vehicles based on specified, as yet undisclosed criteria.” Makes sense to allow the CHP and ambulances to go more than ten over, but who else is going to get that exemption? Think Gavin’s limousine is going to limited to only 10 over when he’s headed to the French Laundry? How about Barack’s motorcade when he’s doing important fund raising in Silicon Valley or Hollywood?

    And in other news…there’s a bill pending in Illinois that would prevent the police from stopping any vehicle traveling less than 26 mph over the limit. That’s the point at which speeding becomes a misdemeanor. Then, because bail has been eliminated in Illinois, all the driver would need to do is sign the paperwork and drive away.
    Absolutely stupid.

    There are a lot of roads around me (and I live near the intersection of three states, so multiple jurisdictions involved) where the cruising speed of the road is in the ballpark of 25 over. I realize that boosting the speed limits just encourages folks to go even faster, but we have reached a point where folks can hum along at 85+ on a regular basis with nothing really bad happening. I think law enforcement realizes that too.

    I agree that unless all cars are limited, it won’t work. I do think that there should be speed cameras everywhere. Especially in residential areas. I also believed that cell phones should be disabled in moving vehicles, or at least make it a felony for using one in a car. Someone talking on the phone, hands free or not, is just as dangerous as a drunk driver. Where is the outrage? Mothers Against Cell Phone Users? I would argue that the drunk driver has the moral high ground. Perhaps they didn’t realize how much they drank or their judgement was impaired. What excuse does the cell phone user have?

    The real reason why the number of accidents are going up is not speeding but distracted driving. Almost everyone is holding a hand on the steering wheel and a phone in the other. Not only this but the new cars with no buttons but a lot of screens and you have to go through a number of steps to do basic things and you have to take your eyes from the road to watch the screen for your next step. This is why the number of accidents are going up and our politicians are always blaming the speeding as the cause.

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