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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 Tue, Jan 4, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


Of the 954 bills signed into law in California during the 2004 legislative session, there are more than 150 changes to the Vehicle Code. From operating a motorized scooter to how you may utilize the carpool lane, new laws may affect the way you drive in 2005. Here are some of the highlights: Use of Headlights - You must now turn on your headlights when you cannot clearly see a person or another vehicle at a distance of 1,000 feet or when weather conditions require the windshield wipers to be in continuous use. High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes - Subject to approval by the U.S. Congress, specified low emission and hybrid vehicles (rated at 45 MPG or higher highway) will be allowed to use the carpool lanes regardless of the number of people in the vehicle. The vehicle must display a special decal from the DMV, and the DMV is limited to issuing no more than 75,000 decals. The DMV must stop issuing decals at 50,000 if Caltrans makes a specified determination with respect to traffic congestion. Lighting Equipment - New law prohibits a vehicle that is not an authorized emergency vehicle from being equipped with a device that emits any illumination or radiation that is designed or used for the purpose of controlling official traffic control signals. Wireless Telephones - Except for emergency or work-related purposes, a person may not use either a hands free or hand held wireless telephone while operating a school bus or transit vehicle. High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes - Pilot projects in Alameda, Santa Clara and San Diego Counties will allow drivers without the proper number of passengers to use the carpool lanes for a toll. The pilots are limited to two per county. Motorized Scooters - Only a person with a valid Class C driver's license or instruction permit may operate a motorized scooter. The new law also prohibits a person from altering or modifying the exhaust system of a motorized scooter in violation of specified noise restrictions and muffler requirements. Front License Plate Bracket - New law prohibits manufacturers and distributors from selling or distributing in California that is not equipped with a front license plate bracket and prohibits the delivery of a vehicle after its retail sale unless the vehicle is equipped with a front license plate bracket or the buyer signs an acknowledgement statement. Conviction For Speed Contest - The DMV is required to immediately suspend the driver's license of a person convicted of engaging in speed contest upon notification by a court and may not reinstate the driving privilege until the person gives proof of financial responsibility after the suspension period has expired. Driving Under The Influence - The "washout" period in which a person convicted of DUI would no longer be subjected to enhanced penalties for a prior DUI conviction or related offense, such as refusing to submit to a chemical test, increases from seven to ten years. Effective September 20, 2005, a commercial driver will be disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle for life if on more than one occasion, in separate incidents, that person refuses to submit to or fails to complete a chemical test requested by an officer. Child Restraints - The operator of a limousine, authorized emergency vehicle or taxi cab must properly restrain any passengers six years of age or over, or sixty pounds or more, in the front seat of the vehicle with a proper safety belt. Biennial Smog Check Exemptions - A change in the California Health and Safety Code exempts vehicles that were manufactured prior to 1976, as well as vehicles that are six model years or less, from biennial smog check requirements. Vehicle Rental Agreements - A change in the California Civil Code specifies that a rental car company that equips its vehicles with electronic surveillance technology (EST), such as GPS navigation systems, may not use EST to track and locate rental car customers or otherwise use or obtain information regarding the renter's use of the vehicle to impose fines or surcharges. Exceptions include requested navigational assistance, roadside assistance, or in response to a specific law enforcement request. And did you know... In the California Vehicle Code, the term "invalid tricycle" has now been replaced with "motorized tricycle" and the term "handicapped pupils" has been changed to "disabled pupils". To see LA Car's summary of new laws for 2006, click here. For additional information on California traffic laws and licensing requirements, visit the DMV's website:

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