Double fines steer toward new zone

San Francisco motorists may have to pay twice the price for speeding and other driving offenses on Lombard Street and Van Ness Avenue — a last-minute addition to a law working its way through the state Legislature to increase the safety of 19th Avenue.

Efforts by state Sen. Leland Yee to create a double-fine zone along the 19th Avenue corridor have repeatedly failed in the Legislature, which has jurisdiction on 19th Avenue since it is a state-owned highway.

This year’s incarnation of the bill, which would boost the fine for driving offenses such as excessive speed and drunken driving, will likely be voted on Monday by the full Senate, according to Yee spokesman Adam Keigwin.

The current bill’s inclusion of Van Ness Avenue and Lombard Street, two sections of U.S. Highway 101, is supported by Caltrans, Keigwin said, and is meant to act as a scientific “control” by creating a comparison corridor to measure the efficacy of double-fine zones.

If passed, the double-fine zone would be implemented on Highway 101 at Lombard Street and Lyon Street and carry over to Van Ness Avenue and Golden Gate Avenue. For Highway 1, the zones would cover the stretch of road connecting Park Presidio Boulevard and Lake Street to 19th Avenue and Junipero Serra Boulevard.

From 2002-07, six pedestrians were killed along the 5.2-mile stretch of Highway 1 in San Francisco, and five were killed along the 2.76-mile expanse of Highway 101, according to Caltrans documents.

Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said the agency chose to include Highway 101 as a control because “we control both highways and they have similar aspects, like intersections, stop signs and driveways.”

Unlike 19th Avenue, which is undergoing an extensive set of traffic-calming measures, including signal countdowns and intersection bulb-outs, neither Van Ness Avenue nor Lombard Street has had the emphasis of such dedicated safety improvements, Keigwin said.

Yee’s new bill calls for a five-year study on the effect of the double-fine zones. If both highways see significant accident decreases, then it can be determined that increased fines are the most effective deterrent for speeding motorists, Keigwin said.

If the law passes, the base fine, which makes up only a portion of the total ticket amount of driving infractions, for traffic offenses would be doubled. For example, a speeder traveling 16 mph to 25 mph above the limit faces a $50 base fine, plus $125 in additional state, county and court costs, adding up to a total of $175. With Yee’s double-fine legislation, that amount would increase to $225.

wreisman@examiner.com

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