MONTEREY, Calif- Last week Central Coast News told you about possible "speed traps" in Monterey. Geo. McCalip of www.helpigotaticket.com says, "cops are breaking the law when they write an illegal speed trap ticket."
Central Coast News showed our story to Rich Deal, the head Traffic Engineer for Monterey, and asked if there is illegal speed traps in the city, and he said, "no, we've got a speed survey on every single segment."
Cities are required to have speed surveys on every street to track how fast people drive. The speed limit is supposed to be set at the nearest 5 mph increment of the 85th percentile, which is the speed 85% of all people drive. It's from the 85th percentile that cities can lower the speed limit 5 mph based on conditions not readily apparent to the driver. An example would be accident rates.
But Preston Kincaid from Hollister says, the speed limit on Fremont Street in Monterey is set too low, and the engineering study is not justified. The study uses a 2.5% crest in the road as the reason for dropping the 85th percentile speed of 40 mph, to 35 mph which is the posted speed limit. Kincaid was caught driving 42 mph on that roadway, and when he saw the traffic survey he decided to fight his ticket. "I argued that a rising crest in the road is readily apparent to the driver, and they found in my favor and dismissed the case."
Despite the fact a court ruled in favor of Kincaid, Rich Deal maintains his traffic surveys are all valid. "The speed surveys that we've done are still good, they're still enforceable." Central Coast News asked Deal if Kincaid's case means all speeding tickets on Fremont should be thrown out, he said, "I'll leave that to the courts."
The other issue with Fremont Street is that the current speed limit of 35 mph, makes it so a majority of all drivers are breaking the law. Remember, according to the speed survey, 85% of all people on Fremont drive 41 mph. When you look at the percentage of people actually driving the posted speed limit the number shrinks dramatically to just 24%, meaning 76% of all drivers are speeding.
According to the California Manual on Unified Traffic Control Devices, "speed limits cannot be set arbitrarily low, as this would create violators of the majority of drivers, and would not command the respect of the public."
The MUTCD also states that, "establishing a speed limit at less than the 85th percentile generally results in an increase in accident rates."
Central Coast News asked Rich Deal about this, and he says, the speed limit on Fremont was lowered in the interest of public safety, because not all drivers are the same. "For that distracted driver, or those drivers who have vehicles that don't slow so good, or their reaction times are slower, or maybe their eyesight isn't quite up to par, those are real potentials for crashes."
As far as the speed limit on Fremont changing, it's not expected anytime soon, but about a dozen limits will increase as new standards sent out by Cal Trans require cities to change the way they set limits.
In the past, cities set limits at the nearest 5 mph increment "below" the 85th percentile. So if the 85th percentile was at 38 mph, the speed could be set at 35 mph. With the new standards, speeds must be set at the nearest 5 mph increment "to" the 85th percentile, which would round 38 mph up to 40 mph.
Deal says those changes should take place in Monterey, before the end of the year, and all speed surveys will be enforceable as the changes take place.