Last Friday, Governor Brown vetoed SB 1151, a bill that would have increased traffic fines in school zones and used these funds for active transportation investments. The bill had unanimous, bipartisan support in both houses and all legislative committees and was a strong priority for Safe Routes to Schools advocacy groups.
This veto is extremely unfortunate: as we recently wrote on Transform’s blog, SB 1151 filled a crucial need within the state. California has the nation’s highest pedestrian fatality rate among children aged 4 to 7 years old, and the second highest aged 14 years and younger. We need a stronger deterrent to reckless driving in school zones to ensure that children are safe walking and biking to school.
In his veto message [PDF], Governor Brown wrote:
“Increasing traffic fines as a method to pay transportation fund activities is a regressive increase that affects poor people disproportionately. Making safety improvements in school zones is obviously important, but not by increasing traffic fines”
While we agree with Governor Brown that regressive taxation is often counterproductive, he tragically overlooks the fact that vetoing SB 1151 helps preserve a status quo of unequal access to safe streets. Our most dangerous streets are in our poorest communities where children who are unable to be driven to school must navigate harsh walking and biking environments. A valuable deterrent to unsafe driving within school zones is increased fines.
We applaud Senator Anthony Cannella for taking on this issue and hope that the California legislature continues to confront the state’s child pedestrian safety crisis.