What you need to know about speed cameras to be installed across Oakland
on November 8, 2023
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation into law last month that enables speed cameras in Oakland and other cities in an effort to boost traffic safety.
The law allows Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, among others, to use speed cameras to catch dangerous drivers as part of a pilot program until 2032. The cities will place the cameras in different corridors and near schools.
The number of cameras in each city depends on its population. Between the middle and end of 2024, the state is planning to deploy up to 18 cameras throughout Oakland. Mayor Sheng Thao thanked Newsom in an Oct. 13 post on X, saying the cameras will help “cities like Oakland make our streets safer for everyone who uses them.”
Thao echoed traffic safety advocates who say the cameras are a step in the right direction to ensure road safety. However, privacy activists worry about the security of the data and whether the cameras could disproportionately affect minorities in low-income neighborhoods.
Along with the speed cameras, Oakland is getting state money to purchase hundreds of surveillance cameras to combat rising crime across the city. The crime cameras will be deployed in “hot spots” designated by the Police Department.
The automated speed cameras will issue tickets to drivers who exceed the speed limit, with fines increasing with speed. Drivers speeding through Oakland might soon receive speeding tickets in the mail. For every 11 mph over the limit, a $50 fine will be issued, and for every 15 mph over the limit, a $500 fine.
Cities could give a 50% to 80% reduction in fines for those who can demonstrate financial hardship, according to the law. Community work may be substituted for monetary payment of penalties.
Recent studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show almost one-third of all traffic fatalities are due to speeding. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are more likely to be involved in serious accidents when they are traveling at high speeds. Speed safety systems that incorporate cameras “are an effective countermeasure to speeding that can deliver meaningful safety improvements,” according to 2020 research funded by the state’s Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force.
The state will evaluate the results of the speed cameras before deciding whether to implement them in other areas in 2032.
Assemblymember Laura Friedman, a whose district covers parts of Los Angeles, authored the measure, which includes privacy safeguards. The law requires cities to delete camera data within 10 days if there’s no violation and within 60 days if there is a violation. It prohibits the use of facial recognition.
Where will cameras go?
Mike Katz-Lacabe, research director for Oakland Privacy, an organization working to safeguard privacy rights and strengthen surveillance oversight, expressed concerns about the cameras’ placement and data.
“If we look at where previous police surveillance technology has been used, it tends to be in regions where minorities, underrepresented individuals, and low-income people are, let’s say, overrepresented,” Katz-Lacabe said.
Researchers from Stanford have found racial discrimination in traffic enforcement in Oakland. Their results, published in 2016, showed Black men were four times more likely than white men to be searched during a traffic stop. Even in cases where they were not arrested, African Americans had a higher likelihood of being handcuffed.
George Spies, a traffic safety advocate from Traffic Violence Safety Response, said the legislation is necessary but that improved road construction is the ultimate solution.
“We know that speed camera programs in other areas have reduced accidents and deaths while lowering average travel speeds in places like Alabama, Colorado, and 16 other states, as well as the District of Columbia,” Spies said. “So it should work. But it may be related to the density of the cameras and where they are installed.”
Oakland North welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Oakland North assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: email@example.com.