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Higher Speeds May Dictate Revised Speed Limit

Residents of one local community who are already upset about speeding cars may be even more perturbed in coming months because under California Law (that applies to Kern County roads as well), the speed limit may actually need to be raised.

Officials in Coronado began scrutinizing traffic on Third and Fourth Streets after people complained about speeding cars. But instead of slowing them down, the city might actually speed the traffic up, because a Caltrans study found that 85 percent of the cars travelled faster than the posted 25 mph speed limit. As such, the agency is considering increasing the speed limit to 30 and 35, so the area won't be labeled as a speed trap.

Lower speed proponents hope that the agency may apply the "local" exemption applies, and the speed limit either won't be raised or will be reduced.

Setting the speed limit in Kern County is not an arbitrary process. California has a number of prima facie speed limits: 65 mph on a divided highway, 55 mph on an undivided highway, 25 mph near a school or senior center and 15 mph near a blind intersection or railroad crossing. If localities deviate from the prima face limits, the speed limit is radar-enforced and there is no traffic or engineering study justifying the lower speed limit, under VC 40802, that roadway is a speed trap. In other words, if the speed limit drops inexplicably and an officer is pointing a radar gun, the ticket may be thrown out.

40802 does not apply to "local" roads and "school zones," and the statute has very specific definitions for these places. A "local" roadway cannot be more than 40 feet wide, must contain a traffic control signal at least once every half-mile and cannot be more than two lanes.

Although Third and Fourth Streets are clearly in residential areas, they appear to be more than 40 feet wide, so the local exception may not apply.