Radar speed-limit enforcement in Los Altos Hills could be invalidated, thanks to residents who contested the town's speed survey.
The town is poised to experience the same traffic uproar that struck Los Altos last year, when a similar ruling caused the city's police officers to stop ticketing speeding cars throughout the city. Speed-limit enforcement was reinstated months later, after the city performed a required speed study.
Town engineer Richard Chiu declined to predict whether Los Altos Hills would have to stop citing speeders temporarily. He said town staff are awaiting more information from the Palo Alto Superior Court.
Commissioner Hoa Glassey of the Palo Alto Superior Court dismissed a ticket May 14 that Los Altos Hills resident Bill Kerns received for driving 40 mph last November in town. Glassey ruled that the town's survey was invalid.
She based her decision on the state's anti-speed-trap law, known as the 85th percentile speed rule. To be enforced with radar, speed limits should be set within 5 mph of the observed critical speed of 85 percent of drivers. If the rule is not followed, the speed survey is invalid. The only exception to the rule is if the speed survey cites roadside conditions or hazards not readily apparent to drivers.
According to third-party contractor Traffic Data Service, on El Monte Road, between Interstate 280 and Moody Road, critical speed ranges from 28.9 mph to 35.8 mph, yet the speed limit is posted at 25. If the town wants to use radar, Glassey said the posted speed limit must be within 5 mph, which should be 30 mph.
Kerns and his wife, Betty, who have both received speeding tickets on El Monte Road, argued that the town should not target those who are safely driving more than 25 mph on that road, which turns into Moody Road as it wends into the hills.
"I feel good about it, not only for myself, but also for all the neighbors who were complaining about speeding tickets being issued," Bill said.
The Kernses took it upon themselves to track traffic on two occasions in March. To gather speed statistics, they purchased a reconditioned and calibrated radar gun to measure the speed of hundreds of cars passing along El Monte and Moody roads.
Traffic Data Service surveyed the speed limits on town roads by dividing the roads into 34 sections. The survey was completed in March 2007.
"For the 2.5-mile stretch of Moody from Altamont to the Palo Alto city line, there was only one measurement, in a narrow, twisty portion of Moody," Betty said. "This section is not representative of Moody as a whole ... because portions of the road are straight and wide and clearly a major arterial."
Chiu said he believes the survey is valid.
"We are in the process of gathering the information regarding the speed survey and what issues the commissioner had problems with," Chiu said.