NEW CALIFORNIA DRIVING LAWS FOR 2015
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 7, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Reed Berry As we enter a new year, I must say I feel a bit disappointed. We were practically promised by the creative forces behind the “Back to the Future” trilogy that, by the year 2015, we would have unique new forms of transportation, such as hover boards and flying cars. Ok, you’re right, that was a movie and not real life, but for those of us that were around three decades ago when those movies were released, I’m sure we all hoped that some of those cool modes of transport would become reality. Now that we have reached the trilogy’s futuristic target year that was programmed into Doc Brown’s DeLorean-based time machine, 2015, there are no hover boards or flying cars…yet. Granted, there are companies that are working to develop both, but such devices are not available to consumers at this time. Disappointing in a way, but we must also take comfort in knowing that people will not be hovering or flying above us anytime soon. Many people we see on the road have enough trouble simply driving a vehicle on solid ground, so you can only imagine what might happen if the same unskilled, careless, distracted drivers were to take to the sky. How will we be trained to operate such forthcoming contraptions and, perhaps more importantly, how will the government regulate their safe operation? Just like driving, legislation will have to be enacted to make sure we all hover and fly safely. In a perfect world, people would obey driving laws in order to get safely from point A to point B. In the real world, however, people don’t always obey the laws, or simply choose to ignore those they don’t care for, and this results in costly citations, collisions and death. Each year, hundreds of new laws take effect in California and there are usually at least a dozen or more driving-related laws among them. For some reason, there are only a handful of notable changes for drivers in 2015. How can this be? Do we have enough laws? I have a feeling that if you were to survey the students in my traffic school and suspended license classes, they would say we already have more than enough for their liking. Perhaps California’s lawmakers simply lacked creativity during the 2014 legislative session. Remember, these are the same people that have, over the years, given us laws to prevent talking and texting on hand-held cell phones while driving as well as prohibiting drivers from smoking tobacco products in vehicles with passengers under the age of 18. And, in case you aren’t aware of it, a California driver license can be suspended for such things as a vandalism conviction, failure to pay child support or engaging in an act of prostitution in a motor vehicle near a private residence, just to name a few. Without further ado, here are new driving-related laws and changes in California for 2015. Driver Licenses for Aliens in Country Illegally On January 2, 2015, the California DMV began issuing driver licenses to applicants who are unable to submit satisfactory proof of legal presence in the United States. Under AB 60, adopted during the 2013 legislative year, applicants are required to provide satisfactory proof of identity and California residency and must meet all other qualifications for obtaining a license, including demonstrating the basic knowledge, skills and ability to have the “privilege” of driving. This new law is quite controversial. While I, like many others, feel that such a privilege should not be given to a person in our country illegally, those in favor of rewarding people who violate immigration laws maintain that the streets will be safer if immigrants in this country illegally are licensed to drive. 1.4 million immigrants are expected to apply for licenses under AB 60 over the next three years. At one time, immigrants, regardless of their legal status, were permitted to have driver licenses in California. That changed under Governor Pete Wilson in the 1990s when he signed legislation that required applicants for a driver license to produce evidence of citizenship or legal residency. Personally, I think Governor Wilson got it right, while current Governor Jerry Brown prefers to pander to immigrants in our country illegally by heaping benefits upon them. Not a great way to dissuade people from crossing the border illegally. As a wise man once said (actually, I think it was a radio talk show host): “If you take out all the roller coasters, no one will sneak into the amusement park.” Modified Limousine Safety Requirements and Inspections Following a number of limousine fires, including a highly publicized tragedy in which a newlywed bride and four friends were killed in a limo that caught fire on a California bridge in 2013, new legislation (SB 611) will make “modified limousines” safer for passengers. A modified limousine is a vehicle that seats not more than 10 people, including the driver, and has been modified to increase the wheelbase of the vehicle in order to accommodate additional passengers. The new law creates a modified limousine inspection program that must be implemented by July 1, 2016. Through the program, modified limousine terminals will be inspected by the California Highway Patrol once every 13 months. The law also requires modified limousines to be equipped with readily accessible, fully charged fire extinguishers. The limo driver must make passengers aware of all safety features of the vehicle, including the location of the fire extinguishers as well as instructions on how to lower the partition between the driver and passengers. Carpool Lane Decals Under AB 2013, California will increase the number of PZEVs (Partial Zero Emission Vehicles) that can utilize the high-occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes without the need to carry the customary two or three people in the car. The law increases the number of allowable vehicles from 55,000 to 70,000. Many automakers are now offering PZEV models that qualify for the coveted green decal. Click this link for a current list of allowable vehicles: arb.ca.gov/msprog/carpool/carpool.htm Road Usage Charge After urging consumers to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles as well as newer electric vehicles, the state is now looking into a way to penalize drivers for doing so. It had to happen. Less fuel used means less tax revenue for the state so, under SB 1077, a committee will be formed to explore the possibility of charging drivers based on miles driven rather than the amount of fuel they purchase. A pilot program must be completed by January 1, 2017, and evaluated by June 30, 2018. Global Warming Solutions Act / Carbon Emissions We’ve all enjoyed seeing the price of gas plummet in the recent past, but now it’s time for consumers to pay a few extra cents on every gallon thanks to AB 32, a law that former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed nearly a decade ago. As of January 2015, transportation fuel suppliers are required to participate in the state’s Cap and Trade program and, of course, their costs will be passed along to us in the form of slightly higher gas prices. The Cap and Trade program requires fuel suppliers to be more eco-friendly by producing low-carbon fuels or buying pollution permits to cover the greenhouse gases produced when conventional fuels are burned. Schwarzenegger seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. Just ask his former housekeeper. Ride Share Services Nothing seems to be more popular – or more controversial right now – than ride share services, such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. Consumers seem to love them while taxi unions are greasing the palms of politicians in an attempt to legislate such services out of existence. AB 2293, which takes effect July 1, 2015, requires ride share drivers to have a one million dollar insurance policy to cover injury, death or property damage, as well as a million dollars worth of coverage against uninsured or underinsured motorists. This coverage applies from the time a passenger enters the vehicle until their ride is complete. Lower limits apply when the driver is logged in on the ride share service app but doesn’t have a passenger in the vehicle. The insurance coverage can be maintained by the driver or the ride share service itself. For additional information on California driving laws: California Department of Motor Vehicles: dmv.ca.gov California Highway Patrol: chp.ca.gov California Legislative Counsel: leginfo.ca.gov