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Well, it’s a New Year! With every New Year comes new state laws that become effective on January 1st. Here in California, we practically live in our cars, so if you’re a motorist, these laws will probably have an effect on you.

SB 67 will hopefully crackdown on dangerous illegal street racing. This type of speeding is a serious cause of personal injury to drivers, occupants and innocent bystanders. Basically, this law will reauthorize a law that lapsed in 2006 that allows police to impound a vehicle for 30 days when a person is arrested for street racing, exhibition of speed, or reckless driving. It allows registered owners of impounded vehicles to claim their vehicles if the owners were neither the driver nor passenger at the time of the violation and were unaware that the vehicle was being used.

Have you ever been tempted to use a product to obtsruct your license plate from intersection cameras? Well, AB 801 will make it illegal to sell or use a product that obstructs or impairs the recognition of a license plate by an electronic device operated by police or toll authority. No more going through red lights and hoping not to get caught by the camera. First time fines for using these products will be $146 and selling fines can range up to $900.

In an effort to make school zones safer for kids, AB 321 will allow local authorities to establish their own speed limits of 15 miles per hour in a school zone. The 15-mph speed limit must be posted and applies up to 500 feet from the school when children are present or arriving at or leaving the school, either during school hours or during the noon recess. In addition, this law will include when children are not in school and when school grounds are being used by children and not separated from the street by a fence, gate, or other physical barrier. At a distance of between 500-1,000 feet from school a 25 mph limit will apply. Speeding around school areas is a recurrent cause of personal injury to children here in Orange County. Hopefully this new law will keep children safe.

SB 7 is a somewhat controversial new law. California is now the third state in the nation to ban cigarette smoking in your own car when a minor is present. Some feel like its more of a civil rights issue rather than a health one, but studies do substantiate the health risk of second-hand smoking and children breathing it. Whether it is a cigarette, pipe or cigar, in motion or not, you could be punished with a $100 fine if caught. However, law enforcement personnel can only stop you in connection with another vehicular offense. This is a so called “secondary enforcement” law.

Traffic School. Yeah you have to spend your Saturday in school but at least the penalty did not go on your record or increase your insurance, right? Well, with AB 645, you won’t be able to attend traffic school if you commit a two point violation. Two-point violations include drunk driving, hit-and-run, speed contests, evading an officer, and vehicular manslaughter. In 2004, there were 773 instances in which two-point violators had their driving records expunged by attending traffic school, allowing them to maintain their “good driver” insurance discount and elude DMV negligent-driver oversight. These violations are also a major cause of personal injury here in California, so it’s a good law to force legitimate penalties on bad drivers.
Other new laws here in California include: getting cash back for your gift cards, minimum wage earners got a raise to $8/hr and last but not least, your employer cannot place a radio frequency identification device under your skin! What a relief!

Happy New Year!

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