Michael Pin: City leading from behind

Santa Clarita Senior Traffic Engineer Andrew Yi demonstrates the city's signal synchronization system in this May 2016 photo. Austin Dave/The Signal

Well, it looks like my understanding of government was a bit naive. I was under the impression that a letter from a concerned citizen to local government officials detailing a dangerous situation might prompt some consideration of how to mitigate same.

Instead, my letter regarding local speed limits was interpreted as an indictment, with the predictable response of duck and cover:


Dear Dr. Pin:

Thank you for your email to the City Council regarding speed limits on city streets. They have asked that I respond on their behalf.

We appreciate your concern about traffic safety in our community and taking the time to bring it to the city’s attention.

California state law requires public agencies conduct engineering and traffic surveys every five to seven years to establish speed limits on public roadways. These surveys include analysis of roadway conditions, collision records, and the prevailing speed of the majority of drivers using the roadway.

The survey takes a sample of vehicles on the roadway during free-flow (non-peak) conditions. The speed limit is established based on the 85th percentile speed (the speed at which 85 percent of the vehicles are traveling at or under).

If the speed limit is not based on an official engineering and traffic survey, the courts will not allow radar enforcement. Thus, designating an arbitrary speed limit lower than what the engineering and traffic survey considers appropriate is counterproductive, since the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (Sheriff’s Department) will be unable to efficiently enforce speeds.


It seems that little can ever change in our country because such change would be a prima facie admission of culpability. To roll back speed limits would be an admission of wrong doing.

Our government could side-step this mine field by stating that certain speed limits were being rolled back simply to reduce air pollution and save gas. And by the way, it might also decrease the carnage.

But I get the feeling things just don’t work this way. Speed limits are set by focus groups. If most people (85 percent) drive at 50 mph, then the speed limit will be set at 50.

So we, the citizens of Santa Clarita, need to lead our government from behind. If 85 percent of us drive our vehicles at 45 mph on the McBean Speedway , we will burn less gas, produce less air pollution and send a compelling mandate that we want the carnage to stop.

If we collectively send a loud enough message, for a long enough time, change may come about.

Many who read this will scoff “wishful thinking.” And realistically, you are probably correct because as a society, we have lost our moral compass (speedometer.) We no longer do what is right because Jiminy Cricket whispers in our collective ears; we only behave correctly out of fear of retribution.

Alexander Hamilton opined that a strong government was necessary to reign in our more base impulses. As brilliant as he was, Hamilton did make a few blunders; let’s prove him wrong again. Fellow Citizens of Santa Clarita, seize this opportunity for change that the July Fourth tragedy has presented us.

Please slow down for Collin; slow down for all of our children.

Michael Pin, M.D., is a Santa Clarita resident.

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