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By Reed “The Traffic Guy” Berry
I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like 2013 flew by awfully fast. Just as we are getting used to the new laws that took effect this year, it’s time to ring in a new year and take a look at the new California driving laws for 2014. Hundreds of new laws take effect each year, with a portion of them devoted to driver safety and driving-related matters, such as vehicle registration and licensing issues. There’s even a new law designed to make riding your bicycle a little safer.
Like I always say, it doesn’t matter if you love them or hate them, you just have to obey them because failure to do so may result in a costly ticket, not to mention to dangers associated with violating laws enacted in the interest of public safety. I know what you’re thinking – what difference does it make when so many people drive as if the laws don’t apply to them? That is a valid observation, however, while you can’t control the actions of others, you CAN control your own and by doing so, you will have a safer, happier and, hopefully, ticket-free year.
Here is a summary of new California driving laws for 2014. They take effect January 1st, unless otherwise noted.
Bicycles: Passing Distance
Effective September 16, 2014, the Three Feet for Safety Act (AB 1371; Bradford) will require a motor vehicle driver passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction to pass with no less than 3 feet between any part of the vehicle and any part of the bicycle or driver. When three feet is not possible, the motor vehicle must slow to a reasonable and prudent speed and only pass when no danger is present to the bicyclist. Failure to do so will result in a hefty fine regardless of whether or not a collision results.
A new law in 2013 allowed drivers to send and receive text messages while driving if done using voice-activated hands-free technology. New law (SB 194; Galgiani) prohibits a person under 18 years of age from using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text–based communication while driving, even if it is equipped with a hands–free device. OMG…WTF…what will teen drivers do now?
Drivers Licenses For Less-Than-Legal Residents
During 2014, the DMV will be ramping up to implement AB-60 (Alejo), the new law requiring the DMV to reward illegal aliens with a California driver license. According to the DMV, the applicant will not have to provide satisfactory proof that he or she is legally present in the U.S. but will have to meet all other driver license qualifications. The law becomes operative by January 1, 2015.
Registration and Vehicle Transfers Between Family Members
Thinking about giving your car to a family member? Sorry, but you’ll have to clear up your outstanding parking tickets first. New law (AB 443; Lowenthal) prohibits the transfer of ownership of a vehicle to a relative or a revocable living trust until all parking and/or toll violation fines and penalties reported to the DMV are paid by the transferee.
Clean Air Vehicle Decals / “HOV Stickers.”
For those of you that are a bit jealous of the drivers allowed to drive alone in carpool lanes, you’ll be seeing them do it for quite some time. New laws (AB 266; Yee and SB 286; Blumefield) together extend sunset dates for low emission, zero emission vehicles to operate in high occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV) without meeting occupancy requirements to January 1, 2019. Solution: buy a low or zero emission vehicle and you can do it too!
Registration Fees: Vehicle Theft
I have an idea – let’s raise vehicle registration fees again. Oops, looks like the legislature had the same idea. AB 767 (Levine) authorizes counties to increase registration fees by $1 for passenger vehicles and $2 for commercial vehicles to fund programs related to vehicle theft crimes in those counties.
AMBER Alert: Expansion
Unfortunately, strangers are not the only ones that pose a threat to children. This law (AB 535; Quirk) requires law enforcement to request activation of the AMBER Alerts after receiving a report that a child has been taken abducted by anyone, including a custodial parent or guardian, who may cause serious bodily injury or death to the child.
DMV Vehicle Registration Pilot Program
Looks like the DMV is getting ready for some high-tech changes, such as electronic license plates. SB 806 (Hueso) authorizes DMV to establish a pilot program to evaluate the use of alternatives to stickers, tabs, license plates, and registration cards, subject to certain requirements. It will also enable the DMV to experiment with electronic license plates, as well as facilitate DMV’s ability to explore cost–effective alternatives to California’s traditional metal license plate, plastic–coated registration stickers, and paper registration cards. E-plates sound cool, but does any electronic device work 100 percent of the time?
Charter Bus Carriers: Limousines: Emergency Exits
Thanks to this new law (SB 109; Corbett), limo passengers will not only be riding in style, but they will be much safer, as well. By January 1, 2016, every limousine that has been modified or extended to accommodate additional passengers shall have two rear doors and one or two internally removable rear emergency windows. If such modifications occurred on or after July of 2015, these requirements apply immediately after July 1, 2015. All new limousines manufactured after January 1, 2015 must meet these requirements as well.
Search Warrants: Chemical Tests
An amendment to current law (SB 717; DeSaulnier) authorizes the issuance of a search warrant to draw blood from a person in a reasonable, medically approved manner, to show that the person violated misdemeanor DUI provisions when that person has refused an officer’s request to submit to, or has failed to complete, a blood test. This law has been operative since September 20, 2013.
Hit and Run: Statute of Limitations
AB 184 (Gatto) extends the statute of limitations for hit-and-run collisions in which death or permanent, serious injury was a result. A criminal complaint may be filed within three years of the offense, or one year after the person was initially identified by law enforcement as a suspect in the commission of the offense, which ever comes later, but in no case more than six years after the offense.
Commercial Driver’s License
New law (AB 1047; Linder) will allow the DMV to conduct the commercial drive test for the holder of an out–of–state commercial learner’s permit. The department would electronically transfer the information to the motor vehicle department in the applicant’s state of residence. AB 1047 also modifies the license class definitions to require a driver operating a bus weighing more than 26,000 pounds to hold a commercial Class B license and a driver operating a bus weighing 26,000 pounds or less to hold a commercial Class C license.
Veterans License Plates
AB 244 (Bonilla) Requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to sponsor a veterans’ special interest license plate and requires the DMV to issue the veterans’ plate if CalVet meets the current statutory requirements. This law creates, in addition to the current Honoring Veterans design of the Veteran’s Organization Plate, a new program to reissue the Veteran design that was issued prior to January 1, 2010. These plates are available to all vehicle owners. The Department of Veterans Affairs must secure 7,500 pre–paid applications in order for the department to implement this plate program.
REED BERRY is known professionally as The Traffic Guy. Since 1988, Reed has taught humor-based traffic violator school classes throughout Southern California and has served as keynote speaker at safety conferences across America. A recognized traffic safety expert, Reed’s growing list of TV interview credits includes Fox News Channel, NHK News in Japan, Eye-to-Eye with Connie Chung, and BBC-TV in London. Reed was the co-creator and co-host of Traffic Jam (KRLA 1110 AM, Los Angeles).