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Assemblymember Ward’s Public Safety Bill to Study Vehicle Size and Pedestrian Fatalities Signed into Law

For immediate release:
Press Conference for AB 251

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Pedestrian fatalities reached a four-decade high in 2020, with California having the most pedestrian fatalities in the nation. Simultaneously, vehicles have been steadily increasing in size and weight, with some models now weighing several thousand pounds. Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 251 into law, which directs the California Transportation Commission to study the relationship between vehicle size and injuries to vulnerable road users. 

“We know vehicle sizes have increased dramatically since the 1980s, but we don’t have a clear picture of how that has affected road safety for vulnerable users like pedestrians and cyclists,” said Assemblymember Ward (D-San Diego). “This study will help us understand how to develop policies that will help keep everyone –– drivers included –– safe on our roads.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on average, a pedestrian was killed every 81 minutes and injured every 10 minutes in traffic crashes in 2020. Additionally, pedestrian deaths accounted for 17% of all traffic fatalities and 2% of all people injured in traffic crashes. Though their designs have changed considerably over the past two decades, late-model SUVs may be more likely to kill pedestrians than cars, according to another study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

AB 251 would also study the costs and benefits of imposing a vehicle weight fee, as well as how those funds could be used to improve safety features on roads. At least 13 states, including Florida, New York, Hawaii, North and South Dakota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Kansas, Arkansas, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey charge weight-based registration fees for vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. AB 251 is supported by safety advocates as an important step towards improving pedestrian and cyclist safety.

"Streets For All is thrilled to see the Governor sign AB 251 and really prioritize pedestrian safety as cars get heavier and heavier,” said Marc Vukcevich, Director of State Policy for Streets for All. “We look forward to seeing the results of the study from the California Transportation Commission.”