Posted speed limit challenged; radar banned on certain streets
By Melanie Carroll
Bay Area News Group
Article Launched: 05/25/2008 01:44:01 AM PDT
A speeding ticket written on Thanksgiving Day last year has forced Los Altos Hills to temporarily holster its radar guns on dozens of streets until a consultant reviews its speed surveys.
Los Altos Hills resident Bill Kerns said he started questioning the town's speed limits after he received a $230 ticket for driving 40 mph along a straight stretch of Moody Road where the limit is 25 mph.
"I have driven that road for years . . . and never had a speeding ticket" before Thanksgiving, Kerns said. "Other cars drive over the speed limit."
The state-required surveys are used to set speed limits. They measure the speeds of thousands of vehicles traveling along a given road, and the velocity at which roughly 85 percent of vehicles travel typically becomes the posted limit unless there are justifications for lowering it by 5 mph.
Kerns discovered surveys that showed 85 percent of vehicles on the stretch of road where he was cited travel at 29.1 mph. That would require the posted limit to be set at 30 mph, and there were no justifications on file to lower it by 5 mph.
As a result, Santa Clara County Traffic Commissioner Hau Glassey dismissed Kerns' ticket, and the city has since suspended the use of radar guns on certain roads.
In 32 cases, the town didn't provide justifications for lowering limits by 5 mph, said Los Altos Hills city engineer Richard Chiu. He didn't know which roads were affected other than the section of
Moody Road where Kerns was cited.
"Our surveys are not invalid," said Steve Garcia, the town's public safety officer. "We have to update certain streets" to include reasons for the lower speed limits.
Some of the rationales for lowering limits include blind driveways, curvy roads and bicycle activity. Without adequate justification, the limit could be increased to 30 mph on Moody Road.