NEW CALIFORNIA CAR LAWS FOR 2012
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Wed, Jan 4, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Reed “The Traffic Guy” Berry Well, it’s that time again. A new year begins, and that means it’s time to put our learning caps back on to understand and digest all the new driving-related laws in California. Of the 750 bills passed by the legislature in 2011, a number of them affect what we do behind the wheel, so it’s better to learn them here than from a CHP officer who has taken time out from his busy day to spend a little quality time with you on the side of the road. Normally, I just offer a summary of the new laws and changes, and let you do with the information what you will. This year, I will start with a bit of a rant. Some people are under the impression that traffic laws and the tickets that result from violating those laws are all about money and have little, if anything, to do with safety. Yes, traffic violations result in tickets that cost you money and produce revenue, but traffic laws are enacted in the interest of public safety. Now, let’s explore why tickets are so expensive. Think of it as a form of behavior modification. A citation for running a red light in California is currently right around $500.00. If a red light ticket was only $50.00, it wouldn’t really prevent you from doing it again, you would probably just budget to determine how many red lights you could comfortably afford to run each month. Chances are pretty good that receiving a $500 ticket will make you more careful at red lights, and that equals fewer collisions and fatalities.
Don’t concern yourself with the high fines associated with traffic violations. Remember, as long as you drive carefully and obey the traffic laws, there is no fine. It wouldn’t bother me if they raised the cost of running a red light to $10,000, or $100,000, or to whatever the current Lotto jackpot is because – you guessed it – I don’t run red light lights so the cost doesn’t affect me. See how easy it is to avoid heavy traffic fines? Some speculate that the world will come to an end in 2012. Well, I don’t know about that, but here in California we do face the end of a safe, civilized world thanks to our Governor, Jerry Brown. Proving that wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age, Governor Brown has vetoed legislation that would have made our streets and highways safer and has signed legislation that will make the streets more dangerous. For example, Governor Brown vetoed Senate Bill 28, authored by Senator Joe Simitian. SB 28 would have significantly increased the fines for drivers violating the cell phone laws and would have prohibited bicyclists from talking and texting, as well. In addition, it would have made such an offense a one-point violation on the driving record. Governor Brown vetoed the legislation, commenting that he feels the current penalties are sufficient. Perhaps Governor Brown hasn’t noticed just how many drivers are ignoring the cell phone laws, an indication that current penalties are not an adequate deterrent.
Governor Brown did sign into law AB 353, a controversial law protecting unlicensed drivers. Under this provision, law enforcement cannot impound the vehicle of a sober unlicensed driver at a DUI checkpoint. Assemblyman Gil Cedillo authored this legislation to benefit unlicensed drivers (primarily illegal aliens) who, according to a spokesperson for Cedillo, ‘have to get to work.’ Excuse me? In my opinion, and in the interest of common sense and safety, the vehicle of any unlicensed driver should be impounded in any traffic stop or at any checkpoint. Instead, the new law rewards drivers who thumb their noses at California’s driving laws and regulations. According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 30 percent of fatal collisions in California in 2008 involved an unlicensed driver. With my rant concluded – at least for now – let’s take a look at some of the important new driving-related laws and changes you’ll need to know. These laws are in effect as of January 1, 2012, unless otherwise noted. SB 929 Child Passenger Restraints Previously, children up to six years of age or sixty pounds had to be restrained in a child passenger restraint system. New law states that a child under the age of eight, or under four feet nine inches in height, is required to be restrained in a child passenger restraint system in the rear seat of a vehicle. There are certain exceptions that allow such a child to ride in the front seat, such as if the vehicle doesn’t have a back seat, if the child safety seat cannot be properly installed in the back seat, or if all rear seats are already filled with kids seven years of age or younger. There are exceptions for medical conditions and physical unfitness, as well, but proof of such conditions may be required.
AB 1358 Traffic Ticket Amnesty / Misdemeanor Violations Except for parking violations, DUI offenses and certain reckless driving offenses, new law authorizes courts and counties to include certain misdemeanor offenses in the traffic amnesty program authorized by the California Vehicle Code. But before running down to take advantage of this amnesty program, realize that it only applies to violations that had a payment due date on or before January 1, 2009; if there are no count-related felonies or misdemeanors other than those authorized for amnesty; and if the defendant doesn’t owe and victim restitution within the county. SB 89 Vehicle Registration Fee The vehicle registration fee is about to change and guess which direction it’s heading…that’s right, it is increasing. For vehicle registrations due on or after July 1, 2012, the base fee increases from $31 to $43. SB 859 Vehicle Records: Confidentiality Proving that you can run (an electric vehicle) but can’t hide, new law allows an electrical corporation or publicly owned electric utility to access DMV records to identify the address at which an electric vehicle is registered but not the name of the vehicle owner. The law prohibits the selling or sharing of this information for marketing purposes. Normally, DMV records are confidential but there are specific exceptions for manufacturers, dealers and, with this newly added exception, electric utilities for reasons of safety, warranty, product recalls and registration transactions.
AB 353 Vehicles: Sobriety Checkpoints Thanks to Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, we have a new law that compromises public safety and puts us all at greater risk. Under this law, if the only offense of a driver stopped at a sobriety checkpoint is failing to hold a valid driver license, peace officers are prohibited from impounding the vehicle for 30 days. The law does require that the officer make a reasonable attempt to identify the registered owner in order to release the vehicle. I’m sure this is good news for dangerous, unlicensed drivers but bad news for the rest of us because, as you can imagine, those unlicensed drivers will be back out on the road before you know it. AB 520 Reckless Driving: Suspension of License Anyone convicted of reckless driving under section 23103.5 of the California Vehicle Code may apply for a restricted license prior to the completion of their one-year suspension provided they meet specified conditions including the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (breath alcohol analyzer connected to the ignition) in their vehicle. AB 607 Illuminated Signs on Public Transit Buses In an attempt to bring in additional revenue, the city of Santa Monica may now operate 25 city-owned buses with illuminated signs displaying advertising. This is a pilot program authorized through January 1, 2017. I sure hope some of the ads are for hospitals and personal injury attorneys because this type of rolling distraction will undoubtedly result in traffic collisions.
AB 475 Parking of Electric Vehicles Electric Vehicles (EV) may only park in EV-designated parking spaces while charging otherwise they may be towed. The law also prohibits a person from blocking or otherwise preventing access to an EV-designated parking space. Note to new EV owners – please remember to unplug your vehicle before driving. AB 1105 Lane Markings on High-Occupancy Toll Lanes This new law prohibits vehicles from crossing double parallel solid white lines except where permitted, which would include turning into or out of a driveway or private road, turning left at an intersection, or when entering or exiting designated areas of ‘exclusive or preferential use lanes’ (which is a cool way of saying high-occupancy toll lanes.) AB1298 Mobile Billboards Thanks to this new law, we should see fewer of those annoying view-blocking mobile billboards parked on the side of the street. Cities can now regulate advertising signs on a motor vehicle parked or left standing on a public street. Exceptions would include advertising painted directly on or signs permanently affixed to the vehicle that do not extend beyond the length, width or height of the vehicle.
AB 1601 DUI: Repeat Offenders This law, passed in 2010, effective January 1, 2012, adds section 23579 to the California Vehicle Code. Courts are now authorized to revoke a person’s driver license for 10 years if they are convicted of three or more DUIs. A person may apply to get their license back after 5 years if they install an Ignition Interlock Device on their vehicle, but the law allows the DMV to terminate their driver license once again if they fail to comply with the IID requirements. AB 349 Livestock Carriers Good news hog farmers…this new law allows licensed livestock carriers to continue traveling on Highway 101 within the counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, and Mendocino from its junction at Highway 1 (near Leggett) north to the Oregon border until January 1, 2015. For more information on California traffic law: dmv.ca.gov chp.ca.gov leginfo.ca.gov