California drivers face raft of new laws

December 28, 2010 6:36am
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•  Why you’d better stop before turning right on red

•  Beware the street-sweeper

It could get a lot more expensive to make a mistake while driving in California starting Saturday.

The New Year brings with it a raft of new laws that impose stiff penalties for violations.

Here’s a list of major changes – and one big non-change.

• You don’t even have to be behind the wheel to face penalties. AB 2486, authored by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, states that if a "social host" 21 years of age or older knowingly gives alcoholic beverages to someone under 21 years of age, the host may be held legally accountable if that person is injured or dies, and may also be held accountable if other persons are injured or die, or if their property is damaged or destroyed, as a result of the underage person drinking the alcoholic beverage.

“This bill promotes responsible behavior by acting as a deterrent to adults who might otherwise provide alcohol to teens. It will keep kids safer,” said Mr. Feuer.

A social host is a person who provides alcohol to guests at his or her residence; the category does not apply to licensed or commercial alcohol vendors.

And whatever moving violation ticket you get will have a $4 surcharge. And all those tickets will add up to $34 million extracted from drivers every year. The money will be used to pay for emergency air-transport services. The bill was adopted to resolve a revenue shortfall for air-transport services because of inadequate Medi-Cal funding. The law will remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2016.

• Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, judges will be allowed to revoke for up to 10 years the driver's license of any person convicted of three or more drunk driving charges in a 10-year period. Current law allows for a license revocation of three years for someone with three or more DUIs in a 10-year period.

Despite tougher penalties, drunk driving remains a major problem in California, based on statistics. In 2008, there were 187,987 DUI convictions in California, 9,164 of which were third-time DUI offenders within 10 years.

In addition, drunk drivers killed more than 1,000 people in California and injured 28,000 more.

• It’s not quite Big Brother, but perhaps its cousin, the once benign street-sweeper, that has its eye on you. A new law, AB 2567 authored by Gardena Assemblyman Steve Bradford, authorizes cities to install and operate cameras on street sweepers to digitally photograph vehicles that are parked on streets when street sweeping is posted to occur.

Cities will be required to make a public announcement of the camera-enforcement system at least 30 days prior to the effective date and may only issue warnings during that 30-day period.

• Motorists who get snared in any city in the state now will get a bit of a break – their violation must be sited under state law instead of some unique local ordinance.

The new law, SB 949, authored by state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, makes it unlawful for local governments to ticket drivers who commit moving violations under municipal codes or other local regulations. All moving violations must be cited under the appropriate state vehicle code section, which specifies penalties. This law ensures that drivers throughout the state will be treated uniformly for moving violations.

“Several local governments statewide have recently made it their official policy to substitute their own local ordinances for defined violations and penalties in the state’s vehicle code for moving violations,” said Ms. Oropeza, D-Long Beach. “Such inconsistency in enforcing state law can only lead to confusion and distrust among drivers.”

• Sticking that probe up your car’s tailpipe to check for emissions is a fading technology in California and may be speeded on its way to the auto mechanics’ hall of fame by another new law, AB 2289. Beginning sometime after Jan. 1, 2013, model-year 2000 and newer vehicles will be tested for smog compliance using the vehicle's onboard diagnostic systems (OBD-II) instead of a tailpipe sensor.

If the vehicle is not equipped with OBD-II or has emissions problems, it can be tested using the tailpipe sensor at a test-only station.

Changing the testing procedure is expected to reduce the cost of smog checks, claims the California Bureau of Automotive Repair.

• Finally, do you come to a full, complete stop, behind the white line, before you make a right turn on red? If not, that red light camera might catch you and if it does, get ready to pay a fine of $440.

Cities are increasingly using red-light cameras to target drivers who either fail to stop completely or who stop past the limit line when making right turns at intersections, note the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The Legislature defeated a bill that would have cut the total fine for violations involving right turns on red to about $210, an amount more consistent with other traffic violations, including failure to stop at a stop sign. The Auto Club noted that the bill would have refocused the red-light camera programs on safety, instead of on generating money.

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Comments on this story

Kathleen Riley 12/29/10 1:07 AM
Thanks for the stop red light warning. Now if i can just remember to stop back of the white line.....

G. Thomas 12/29/10 11:49 AM
Waited years to see this law enforced, so happy to see it in print. Two Thumbs Up . . .

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