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A New Year is always an exciting new beginning but it also a time to find out about new laws that become effective and avoid new fines and fees. New California laws are no different and in fact, California leads the way with some important motorist rules that may reduce personal injury when using your vehicle. Here are three to be aware of:

1. Effective January 1, 2009, senate bill 28 will ban ALL text-based communication, including instant messaging and email. California drivers can’t send, receive or read text messages while driving. Period. Cell phone use while driving in California is already banned, except for hands free devices. There will be a $76 fine for your first offense and $190 for all subsequent offenses, depending on the county you are driving in. Additionally, don’t think that just because you’re at a stoplight this gets you off the hook. Anytime you are operating a vehicle a police officer can give you a citation.

A new study by University of Utah psychologists recently concluded that cell phones, whether hand-held or hands free, are a distraction to the driver. They compared the differences between normal conversations within a car to talking with friends over a device. The cell phone users were more likely to drift in their lane, not keep appropriate car length distance and missed their intended exits. In previous studies, they were able to compare motorist’s judgment levels revealing that they were no differences between normal cell phone driving and having 0.08 percent blood alcohol level.

California is the 6th state to enact stricter driving laws regarding electronic devices and hopefully we will see a decrease in the coming years of serious personal injuries.

2. California state law now requires that if you smoke in your automobile, you may not transport a minor child as a passenger. Even if you are stopped by the side of the road, you will be cited for this violation.

Distractions are a big cause of injury accidents, and smoking is just one of many distractions that keep driver’s focus away from their duty as a driver. Along with music, eating, and talking, smoking is a major distraction that can take away your attention in various driving situations.

3. If you are one of the over 200,000 persons in the state of California that had a DUI arrest last year, then be aware of this next new law. If you are caught a second time with a blood alcohol level of 0.01%, the law enforcement authorities will automatically suspend your license for 12 months AND immediately impound your car.

In 2007, 28,987 Californians were injured in alcohol-related accidents and 1,616 were killed. The estimated cost per injured survivor of an alcohol-related crash averaged $115,000. Orange County has about 20% of the states personal injury accidents involving alcohol. Cities with the most crashes included Costa Mesa, Orange, Newport Beach, Santa Ana and Anaheim. It is never safe to drink and drive and now the laws are getting tougher on the first and second time offenders.

Lastly, these are just a few of the new laws that became effective on January 1, 2009. For a complete list, visit