(Photo by Alex Gallardo, Contributing Photographer)
A Los Angeles City Council committee approved a report from the Department of Transportation seeking authority to implement a 15 mph speed limit around streets near 45 schools on Wednesday, June 14.
The move is part of an effort to enhance public safety after a string of accidents, including one that resulted in the death of a mother and severe injury to her child while they were walking to school.
“This is the first installment of tactical improvements that LADOT is making this summer to enhance the safety around schools and protect school children — the future of Los Angeles,” said Dan Mitchell, assistant general manager of DOT.
The council’s Transportation Committee unanimously approved a report that would allow DOT to establish “School Safety Zone” speed limits on 98 streets near 45 schools. DOT would set up speed limit signs and other markings to provide drivers with notice of the new regulations.
Los Angeles Police Department officers would enforce the speed limit, according to the report.
The DOT estimates it would cost approximately $153,750 to purchase and install the signs near the schools. Funds are available within the department’s budget for the expenditure.
In 2012, DOT launched its Safe Routes to Schools strategic plan to implement a data-driven process to improve safety around school campuses. DOT and the Los Angeles Unified School District developed a methodology that considered various criteria to identify the top 50 schools in need.
However, in 2016, the council adopted a resolution to establish 15 mph school zone speed limits at 11 of the top 50 schools. Mitchell said DOT implemented those school speed limits as part of a pilot program.
“We are now seeking authority from the City Council to implement those same 15 mph speed limits at the remaining 39 of the top 50 schools as well as six additional nearby schools — five of which are in LAUSD and one private school,” Mitchell said.
According to Mitchell, the California Vehicle Code defines a school zone with the default speed limit of 25 mph — but it allows a local authority to set a speed limit within the school zone that is lower than the speed limit in the surrounding neighborhood.
The reduced speed limit would only apply while children are going to or leaving school.
Mitchell noted that the department developed the High Injury Network to identify streets with a “high concentration of collisions” that result in severe injuries and deaths.
The analysis showed that nearly 56% of all fatal and severe injury collisions occurred within a one-quarter mile of a school. Mitchell added that, at the next Transportation Committee meeting, DOT will share plans for installing speed humps around schools to further reduce vehicle speed and enhance safety.
The report and recommendation to approve the School Safety Zone speed limit will now move forward to full council for final approval at a later date.