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By Reed “The Traffic Guy” Berry
2016 should prove to be an interesting year. After all, it will mark the farewell season of American Idol and it is the first model year of the luxurious new Rolls-Royce Dawn. Oh, yes, and later in the year we’ll find out who the next residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be.
Some automakers plan to roll out self-driving cars during 2016. Personally, I enjoy driving and I’m not ready to give up control of my vehicle, but there are a variety of good reasons to have self-driving vehicles. From a safety standpoint, theoretically there will be fewer collisions because the vehicle sensors will not be distracted, as human drivers tend to be. Also, because autonomous vehicles will not engage in risky maneuvers and vehicle code violations such as unsafe lane changes or tailgating, fewer tickets will be issued.
Speaking of traffic tickets, if you want to avoid them in your current not-yet-self-driving vehicle, you may want to get familiar with the new California driving laws for 2016. Every year, new laws take effect but many people don’t learn about them until they get pulled over and ticketed for them. So, hey, let’s be a bit proactive here, and get to know the new laws before a violation sucks some big bucks right out of your pocket. Unless otherwise noted, these new laws and changes are effective January 1, 2016.
Highway Lane Use
The law requiring slow-moving passenger vehicles to pull over safely to let traffic pass has been amended to apply to all vehicles. Bicycles will now be included in the legal requirement that slow-moving vehicles use the next available turnout or other area to let backed-up traffic (five or more vehicles) get by. It’s about time for a law like this. There’s nothing more embarrassing than calling to report you’ll be late for a business meeting because you’re stuck behind a Schwinn.
Electronically Motorized Boards
Hold on to your hoverboards, folks. There is a new law just for you. The law now defines “electronically motorized board” as a wheeled device designed for a person to stand on and powered by electronic propulsion, going no more than 15 miles per hour. The electronically motorized boards can only be ridden on a highway with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less, or specific designated bikeways. The rider must be at least 16 years old and must wear a bicycle helmet. It also makes it a crime to operate an electrically motorized board while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Cities and counties are authorized to restrict the use of the electrically motorized boards, and some cities and public facilities have already started banning them.
Driving Under The Influence: Ignition Interlock Device
New law grants a one-year extension (to July 1, 2017) of a pilot project for the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties. The pilot was first instituted in 2010. Under the current law, a person convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) may be required to install an IID in their vehicle. If the IID registers alcohol on the driver’s breath, the vehicle will not start. The length of time the IID is required in the vehicle is based on how many prior DUI convictions the driver has had (five months for the first offense, 12 months for a second offense, 24 months for a third offense and 36 months for a fourth or subsequent offense.
I personally don’t know anybody that has one but, just to complicate the process of owning and operating an electric bicycle, new law creates three separate classes of electric bicycles, defined by their maximum speed as well as how much power is supplied by the motor. Classes 1 and 2 have a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. A Class 3 electric bicycle has a maximum speed of 28 miles per hour. The operator of a Class 3 bicycle must be at least 16 years old and wear a helmet. Manufacturers and distributors must label the bicycles with the classification number, top assisted speed, and wattage. The new law sets up safety restrictions and regulates access on trails and paths.
Missing Person / Silver Alert
The “Silver Alert” notification system has been amended to allow the alert to be communicated on CMS (those Changeable Message Signs on the freeway that drivers always slow down to read) when there is a vehicle involved in the missing person incident. The Silver Alert is an emergency system that allows law enforcement to broadcast regional or statewide alerts for seniors, or individuals with developmental disabilities or who are cognitively impaired, and are missing and may be in danger.
Hit-and-Run / Yellow Alert
A “Yellow Alert” notification system will be established as of January 1, 2016, for specified hit-and-run incidents resulting in death or serious injury. As with Amber, Silver or Blue Alerts, the CHP will work with requesting law enforcement agencies to determine whether the hit-and-run meets the criteria for a Yellow Alert, including the use of the freeway CMS network. Criteria includes the availability of information about the hit-and-run suspect or the suspect’s vehicle, and whether disseminating the information will be helpful.
This law expands the definition of pedicab to include a four-wheeled device that is pedal-powered, has a seating capacity for eight or more passengers (I’ve never seen one that carries that many people, nor would I care to be the person pedaling it), cannot travel in excess of 15 miles per hour, and is being used for transporting passengers for hire. This law sets requirements related to local authorization, operator qualifications and training, financial responsibility, accident reporting, safety equipment, and inspections. The law establishes rules and standards for pedicabs that allow passengers (not the driver) to consume alcohol on board, if authorized by local ordinance or resolution.
Designed to give lawbreakers a break on ticket fines and fees, this law amends the criteria for a person to be eligible for the traffic citation amnesty program. The traffic amnesty program was approved through the 2015/16 Budget Act. A person is eligible for the traffic amnesty program if he or she has not made any payments after September 30, 2015, to a collection program for fines or bail already due. The law also indicates that payment of bail, fines, penalties, fees, or a civil assessment is not required in order for the court to remove the civil assessment of up to $300 against any defendant who fails, after notice and without good cause, to appear in court.
Earbuds / Headsets
This new law may not be music to your ears. In fact, it will prevent it. It is unlawful to wear a headset covering, earplugs in, or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears, while operating a motor vehicle or a bicycle. The law does not apply to persons operating authorized emergency vehicles, construction equipment and refuse or waste equipment while wearing a headset or safety earplugs.
Consumer Protection – Starter Interrupt Warning
Some car dealers install a device that allows them to prevent your car from starting should you not make a car payment on time. New law requires a “buy-here-pay-here” dealer to make certain disclosures and notices to a vehicle buyer when a vehicle is sold with tracking and starter interrupt technology installed. This law also requires advance warning be given to the purchaser prior to engagement of the starter interrupt technology, if the buyer fails to make timely vehicle payments. A “buy-here-pay-here” dealer is defined as a used car dealer that assigns less than 90 percent of their conditional sales and lease contracts to third party lenders; and therefore provide direct financing to car buyers.
Transportation Network Companies
This new law requires a transportation network company (TNC) to participate in the DMV’s Employer Pull Notice (EPN) Program. TNCs (such as Uber, Lyft, etc.) provide prearranged transportation services for compensation using an online-enabled application or platform, to connect drivers using their personal vehicles with passengers. The program will provide each TNC with a report showing a driver’s current public record, as recorded by the department, and immediate notifications of moving violations, accidents, driver license suspensions, revocations, and other actions taken against the driving privilege. The DMV’s EPN program provides employers and regulatory agencies with a means of promoting driver safety through the ongoing review of driver records.
California Residency Requirement
This law will require an applicant for an original driver license or identification card to provide proof of California state residency, starting July 1, 2016 and it will bring DMV into compliance with a federal law requirement. The DMV will need to adopt regulations relating to the procedures for verifying that the applicant is a California resident. Perhaps they could ask them to name each Kardashian. After all, what self-respecting Californian wouldn’t know that?
California New Motor Voter Program
This law creates an automatic voter registration process for qualified individuals who apply for a driver license or identification card, or submit a change of address to the DMV. The law will require that DMV implement the New Motor Voter Act no later than one year after the Secretary of State certifies all of the following: the state has a statewide voter registration database that complies with the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (52 U.S.C. Section 20901 et seq.), the Legislature, has appropriated the funds necessary for the Secretary of State and DMV to implement and maintain the program, and the Secretary of State has adopted regulations to implement the law.
Child Safety Seats
If you’re the parent of a small child (or discover you ARE the baby’s daddy in front of a live audience on the The Maury Show), there’s a new law concerning child passenger safety that will take effect January 1, 2017. Children under two years of age must ride rear-facing in an appropriate child passenger safety seat. Children weighing 40 or more pounds or standing 40 or more inches tall would be exempt. California law continues to require that all children under the age of eight be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
For additional information on California law, go to leginfo.ca.gov.