In California, speed limits are determined by the speed of the 85th percentile of drivers. In other words, if 100 people drive down a street, the speed limit is pegged to the speed of the 16th fastest driver.
Currently, the 85th percentile rule requires municipalities to set speeds limits at the nearest 5-mile increment to the 85th percentile speed, with the option to go down 5 mph instead of up. For example, if the 85th percentile speed on a street is 42 mph, the city could set a speed limit of 40 mph. If that speed is 43 mph, the default speed limit would be 45, but the city could set it at 40.
In practice, the 85th percentile rule means that when reckless driving endangers neighborhood children, a local government can’t lower the speed limit to protect kids. It could even be forced to raise the speed limit.
Does this sound crazy to you? It does to us too. That’s why CalBike supports AB 43 (Friedman), which will give communities more tools for reducing speeding in high-injury corridors and commercial districts.