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By Reed “The Traffic Guy” Berry
When I was a child, old people (which, to me at that time was anyone over 30) used to say that the older you get, the faster the years pass. Well, they were right. 2016 has flown by and 2017 is upon us. Get used to saying “President Trump” and, as California drivers, be prepared to obey some new traffic laws. Many people think that traffic laws are all about the revenue generated from ticketing violators but, hey, laws are in place to protect us and promote an orderly flow of traffic. So, get with the program, obey the new laws (a summary of which is below) and we’ll all have a safer ’17. All laws take effect January 1, 2017 unless otherwise noted.
CHILD CAR SEATS
Over the years, child safety seat laws have changed from time to time in order to provide maximum protection for our youngest, smallest passengers. I took the easy way out – I don’t have any kids. But, for those of you that do, there’s a new law with which you must comply. Effective January 1, 2017, children under two years of age must ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall. Current law states that children under eight years of age must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat, and children eight years of age or 4’ 9” tall must be secured by a seat belt.
CELL PHONE USE
Since cell phones were introduced back in the 1980s, three things have happened: they have become more technologically advanced, we rely on them far too much and, most importantly, people have proven over and over again that they can’t drive safely while using them. As a result, laws were passed in an attempt to keep people from using their phones while driving. A law that took effect in 2008 making it a violation to use a handheld cell phone while operating a motor vehicle (except in emergency situations) has been anything but effective. A new law, authored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, prohibits a driver from using a hand-held cell phone or wireless electronic communications device unless it is mounted on or attached to the vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console in a way that does not block the driver’s view of the road. The driver’s hand may only be used to activate or deactivate a feature or function with a single swipe or tap on the screen – but NOT while holding the phone. (This law doesn’t apply to manufacturer-installed systems embedded in vehicles.)
MOTORCYCLE LANE SPLITTING
Another new law authored by Assemblyman Quirk authorizes the CHP to develop educational guidelines related to “lane splitting” (motorcycles riding between rows of stopped or moving vehicles traveling in the same direction) to ensure the safety of motorcyclists, drivers and passengers. The law requires the CHP to consult with specified agencies and organizations that have an interest in road safety and motorcyclist behavior.
VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEE
You didn’t think you’d make it through the year without some kind of fee increase did you? Get ready to pay more when you’re vehicle registration comes due. New law increases the vehicle registration fee on every vehicle or trailer coach from $43 to $53 beginning April 1, 2017.
ENVIRONMENTAL (PERSONALIZED) LICENSE PLATES
Cha-Ching! Those of you with personalized license plates will be paying more, as well. The fee for issuance of such plates jumps from $43 to $53 starting July 1, 2017, and the fee for the renewal, retention, transfer, or duplication of personalized plates increases from $38 to $43 effective January 1, 2017.
For quite some time, the law required that you report any motor vehicle collision in which you were involved if the damage was $750 or more. New law raises the threshold to $1,000. (And a friendly reminder…you must report such a collision, regardless of who was at fault, to the DMV within 10 days to avoid license suspension.)
INSTALLING COUNTERFEIT OR NONFUNCTIONAL AIR BAGS
Hard to believe that there are mechanics that would take advantage of unsuspecting consumers (ok, maybe it’s not that hard to believe) but there are some repair shops that would install counterfeit, or reinstall previously deployed, air bags to save money and make a quick buck. New law prohibits knowingly and intentionally manufacturing, importing, installing, reinstalling, distributing, or selling any device intended to replace an air bag system in any motor vehicle if the device is a counterfeit or nonfunctional air bag system, or does not meet federal safety requirements. The law also prohibits selling, installing, or reinstalling any device that would cause a vehicle’s diagnostic system to fail to warn when the vehicle is equipped with a counterfeit, nonfunctional, or a case in which no air bag was installed. This violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or up to a one year in county jail.
VEHICLE SAFETY RECALLS
This law enacts the Consumer Automotive Recall Safety (CARS) Act, and requires the DMV to include a general advisory regarding vehicle recalls and needed repairs on each vehicle registration renewal notice. This law prohibits a dealer or a rental car company from renting or loaning a vehicle with a manufacturer’s recall no later than 48 hours after receiving the notice until the vehicle has been repaired. This law gives a limited exception for a licensed dealer or a rental car company with a fleet of 34 or fewer loaner or rental vehicles. The law authorizes the DMV to suspend or revoke a vehicle dealer’s license if they violate the CARS Act.
BACKGROUND CHECKS OF DRIVERS FOR TNCs
Your Uber and Lyft rides are about to become a bit safer. A transportation network company (TNC) will be required to perform a comprehensive background check of all their drivers. This law also specifies penalties for a TNC that violates or fails to comply with this requirement. A TNC will be prohibited from contracting with, employing, or retaining a driver if they are registered on the U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender public website, has been convicted of specified felonies, or within the previous seven years, has been convicted of a misdemeanor assault or battery, domestic violence, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Any TNC in violation of the specified requirements is subject to a penalty of not less than $1,000 or more than $5,000 for each offense.
YEAR OF MANUFACTURE LICENSE PLATES
This law expands the Year of Manufacture (YOM) license plate program to include vehicles and license plates manufactured through 1980. This law benefits owners of vintage motor vehicles who obtain license plates from the year corresponding to the vehicle’s model-year, and wish to use those vintage plates in lieu of regular license plates. Such plates are commonly found from different sources, including relatives, garage sales, estate sales, etc. The program will include the blue and yellow license plates issued for use on California motor vehicles from 1970 until 1980. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel really old when they refer to a 1980 automobile as “vintage.”