SAN DIEGO — Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) held a news conference Friday to highlight a bill he’s authored that could lead to added fees for drivers of SUVs and trucks.
“Pedestrian fatalities reached a four-decade high in 2020 with California having the most pedestrian fatalities in the nation,” said Ward during the event held in North Park.
Ward’s bill, AB 251, would have the California Transportation Commission study vehicle size and weight, along with the link to deadly collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists.
“In a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that larger cars like SUVs are disproportionately likely to injure or kill pedestrians,” said Ward, the former San Diego City Councilmember.
In 2021, more than 900 pedestrians were killed in California, more than in any other state.
Among those supporting the bill is Steve Shinn, whose wife Laura was cycling near Balboa Park when she was killed in a collision in 2021.
“If she was alive today she would tell you to develop safer healthier streets, neighborhoods and communities. Assembly Bill 251 can be part of that solution,” Shinn said.
A solution that could come at a cost to drivers with SUVs and trucks.
In the bill, a study would also consider a possible passenger vehicle weight fee for heavier vehicles.
Carl DeMaio with Reform California says that goes too far, unfairly punishing many drivers.
“Just because your car is bigger does not mean inherently that there’s risk here. This is nothing more than a desperate attempt to impose taxes under the veneer of some sort of legitimate need. These are just politicians that want more of our money. When is enough, enough?” DeMaio asked.
Ward says the weight fees would be tacked onto registration fees and the study would also look at how those new fees could potentially change driver behavior.
Ward added those fees would also fund road safety projects throughout the state.
The lawmaker denies the bill is a move to get people out of SUVs and trucks, saying “this is a way to make sure that we are funding the road safety features so that we can all coexist together safely.”
FOX 5 asked Ward whether it would make more sense to go after drivers involved in collisions rather than impose fees on all drivers of heavier vehicles.
“That’s exactly one of the recommendations that could come out of a commission study by the California Transportation Commission. So we want to look at all angles and give us those options about how to address this issue,” Ward said.
No information was given on how big the fees could get.
Ward said the study would need to be completed by 2027.
The Assembly Transportation Committee will hear the bill on March 20, 2023, then vote on whether to move it forward.