Many thanks to the AAA of Northern California for sending me a concise roundup of all the driving-related state laws kicking in in 2008.
First and foremost is the one that has probably led to more confusion than the last 100 California ballot measures. I confess that just prior to July 1 of this year, I thought we were supposed to go hands-free with the mobile phone or face the consequences (Those would be $20 for the first offense, $50 thereafter, which I suspect for many will considered the cost of doing business).
But, as AAA’s Sean Comey notes, that particular law, along with its no-cell-no-text-no-anything-while-driving-under-18 counterpart passed this year, don’t actually kick in until July 1, 2008. So Californians, gab away, but try to practice with the earpiece occasionally so it won’t be such a shock this summer.
If it helps, I recently got to know a Caltrans road crew that lost one ofits members because someone appeared not to be paying attention. Think about that before texting smileys to your BFFs at 70 mph.
While the hands-free and device-free-kids laws don’t kick in Jan. 1, nearly all of the other new laws do.
Here’s a convenient navigational aid to get you through the New Year’s new transportation laws:
The one that affects Bay Area commuting the most:
SB 976, authored by Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), creates a San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA). AAA supported the legislation, which will coordinate emergency activities of all water transportation and related facilities within the Bay Area.
It also takes local control of the Vallejo and Alameda ferries away from those cities and pumps a quarter-billion clams into expanding ferry service on the Bay.
The MacArthur Maze law:
Under AB 1612, authored by Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), the Biennial Inspection of Terminals program requires a physical inspection of hazardous material commercial vehicle terminals and eliminates an administrative inspection. AAA supported the legislation, which came in response to the accident and subsequent fire caused by a commercial hazmat driver and resulted in destruction of a portion of an East Bay freeway.
I.e., the MacArthur Maze collapse on April 29, because of the blaze fed by a gasoline tanker truck from a company with truck terminals the California Highway Patrol didn’t know existed.
Another locally inspired bill I’ll call the Fast and the Furious law:
SB 67, authored by Senator Don Perata (D-Oakland) and supported by AAA, broadens vehicle impound laws to allow law enforcement to seize a vehicle when arresting a driver for reckless driving, reckless driving in an off-street parking area or exhibition of speed.
Then there’s the law most likely annoy the oil companies:
Under AB 868, authored by Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles), California will begin work on a study of the effects of fuel temperature on consumers. Liquids like gasoline are less dense at higher temperatures, which means consumers may receive less fuel than they have paid for. AAA supports this research to reveal hidden costs to consumers at the pump.
Or how about the fatal DUI = murder law:
AB 808, authored by Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, (D-Hanford), requires applicants for a driver’s license or license renewal to sign a declaration that states if they drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs and someone is killed as a result, they can be charged with murder. AAA supported the legislation which will now allow a prosecutor the option to charge a first-time offender with second degree murder in a fatal DUI case.
And there’s another law aimed at making sure DUI’s stay on the record:
AB 645, authored by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), prohibits courts from allowing persons charged with driving under the influence or with a hit-and-run from attending traffic school. AAA supported the legislation because attendance at traffic school for these offenses results in masking a ticket that would otherwise add two recordable points to the person’s driving record.
I thought “Mythbusters” took care of this next problem, but what do I know?
AB 801, authored by Assemblywoman Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel). Supported by AAA, the new law prohibits the use of a device that would impair the recognition of a license place by an electronic enforcement device like a red light camera or those at toll bridge booths.
On the show, tests showed that all the commercially available invisibility aids, such as a spray or transparent but reflective covering, still permitted enforcement cameras to capture license plates.
And here’s a law few parents could argue with:
SB 7, authored by Senator Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach), makes it illegal to smoke cigarettes, a cigar or a pipe in a motor vehicle where a minor is present. Violators can receive a fine of up to $100 per person.
Pay attention to this one, because it won’t be the last one of its kind:
AB 118, authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), increases the annual vehicle registration fee and the smog impact fee in order to provide revenue for research and development of alternative fuels. Consumers can expect to pay from $3 to $11 more when registering their vehicles. This law is in effect from July 2008 through 2016.
Here’s what I call the in-lieu-of-road-testing law:
The DMV took regulatory action this year to authorize online Mature Driver Improvement (MDI) courses. AAA has partnered with I Drive Safely to offer an Internet-based MDI course. Those who take and pass the course are entitled to a discount on AAA insurance.
No doubt inspired by the horrific 2003 Santa Monica accident that killed 10 and injured 63, this regulatory move is evidence that little concrete action will ever be taken to make sure people who possess driver’s licenses are actually capable of operating a large, dangerous piece of machinery. I sincerely hope that my son takes away my keys when my faculties go dim.
This next one is somewhat murky, but I think it will be a boon to those of us on bicycles who wait in vain for traffic signals to trip:
AB 1581, authored by Assemblywoman Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) and supported by AAA, requires, to the extent feasible, placement of traffic signals that detect motorcycles and bicycles at intersections.
AAA also notes that there’s one law that won’t go into effect, ever:
The Governor vetoed AB 881, authored by Assemblyman Gene Mullin (D-South San Francisco), which would have required children up to eight years old or 4’9” tall to sit in the rear seat when riding in a motor vehicle and to be properly restrained in a booster seat. AAA supported the booster seat bill because children ages six and seven are too small to benefit from safety belts designed for adults and continue to be killed and injured in vehicle accidents at higher rates than other children.
MacArthur Maze repair photo by Nick Lammers/Bay Area News Group.