With the new year less than a week away, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has issued a reminder to state motorists about a slew of new transportation-related laws that are set to go into effect.
The laws govern everything from the use of electronic wireless devices in cars, to child safety seats and motorcycle lane splitting, according to a DMV news release.
Most of them are poised to take effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
Electronic Wireless Device Usage
Motorists will soon be prohibited from holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or electronic communications devices while driving, unless it mounted on the vehicle's windshield, or affixed to a dashboard or center console in a way that does not hinder the individual's view of the road, according to the release.
Under Assembly Bill 1785, a motorist can only use his or her hand to activate or deactivate a feature or function on the device that requires a single swipe or tap. The law does not apply to systems that are installed by manufacturers and embedded in the vehicle.
The legislation marks a change from the existing policy, which states any person operating a motor vehicle cannot use a wireless electronic device to write, send or read a text-based communication, except through voice-operated and hands-free features.
Child Safety Seats
This law extends a requirement that children under 2 years old must sit in an appropriate rear-facing child passenger restraint system, unless he or she is more than 40 pounds, or is taller than 40 inches, according to Assembly Bill 53.
The bill, which was signed in 2015, expanded the existing law, which stated that children under the age of 8 must be placed in an appropriate passenger restraint system while in a moving vehicle.
Motorcycle Lane Splitting
California became the first state in the U.S. to formally legalize lane splitting when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 in August, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, defines the practice as a motorist driving a two-wheeled motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles. It also authorizes the California Highway Patrol to develop educational guidelines on lane splitting to help ensure the safety of all motorists.
CHP would have to consult with specified safety agencies and organizations in order to craft the guidelines for motorcycle lane splitting.
DUI 'Ignition' Interlock Devices
Senate Bill 1046 would extend a pilot program that requires most convicted DUI drivers to install ignition interlock devices -- also referred to as IIDs -- that would prevent them from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.
Under the law, the offender be able obtain a restricted driver's license, have their license reissued, or get their motor vehicle privileges reinstated on the condition that they install an IID in their vehicle for a prescribed amount of time.
The bill extends the pilot program in four California counties -- Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare counties -- before it expands to the the entire state on Jan. 1, 2019.
Vehicle Registration Fee Increase
Starting April 1, the vehicle registration fee on every vehicle or trailer coach will rise to $53, an increase of $10. The increase is part of Senate Bill 838.
School Bus Safety
All school buses, school pupil activity buses, youth buses, and any child care motor vehicle used to transport school-age children will be required to have a “child safety alert system, according to Senate Bill 1072. Additionally, all schools are required to have transportation safety plans that ensure no students is left alone on a bus.
Environmental License Plate Fee Increase
Under Senate Bill 839, the fee for the issuance of Environmental License Plates will increase from $43 to $53 beginning on July 1. The fee for the renewal, retention, transfer or duplications of the personalized environmental plates will go from $38 to $43 on Jan. 1.
The minimum threshold for property damage that is required to be reported when a driver is involved in a crash will go from $750 to $1,000 in the new year, as stated in Senate Bill 491.
Vehicle Safety Recalls
This law would enact the Consumer Automatic Recall Safety (CARS) Act, which would prohibit dealers and rental car companies from loaning or renting a vehicle that is under a manufacturer's recall no later than 48 hours after receiving such notice, and until the vehicle has been repaired, according to Assembly Bill 1289. The legislation allows for a limited number of exceptions.
Additionally, under the bill, the DMV will be required to issue a recall disclosure statement with every vehicle registration renewal notice. The agency will also have the power to suspend or revoke the license of any dealer that violates the CARS Act.
Year of Manufacture License Plates
Senate Bill 1429 will expand the Year of Manufacture license plate program so that anyone who owns a 1980 or older-model year vehicle will be able to obtain a license plate from the year corresponding to that car's model year. The vintage plates would then take the place of a regular license plate.
Previously, the law only applied to vehicles that were from 1969 or older, or a pickup truck that is a 1972 or older-model year.
For more information on bills enacted in 2016, go to the Legislative Counsel Web's website at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/.