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New Year, New Laws: Slew of New Rules Aim to Make Streets Safer

8:35 AM PST on January 6, 2011

Police pull over speeders in Playa del Rey in 2007.  Photo:## Man/Flickr##
Police pull over speeders in Playa del Rey in 2007. Photo:## Man/Flickr##

Yesterday, we discussed how a change in the threshold for a crime to be considered "Grand Theft" could impact cyclists who find their bikes stolen.  Today, we'll look at how a series of new laws could make our streets safer and more sustainable.

The biggest change is that local traffic officers now ticket scofflaw drivers for violating state laws and not under local ordinances.  The goal of the law is to make uniform the fines and penalties for motorists breaking the law.  While much of the public discussion of the law focused on "uniform punishment" throughout the state, the larger impact is that all traffic violations will be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Under the previous practice, officers enforcing local ordinances would not have to report violators to the state, because they hadn't violated a state law.  This should result in more reckless drivers losing licenses or getting them suspended as bad drivers will be "get points on their license" regardless of where their lawbreaking occurs.

The law was authored by Long Beach Senator Jenny Oropeza, who passed away in October of last year.

Never would have been an issue if Mike Feuer had been Assemblyman in the early 1990's.
Never would have been an issue if Mike Feuer had been Assemblyman in the early 1990's.

A new law penned by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Hollywood), makes adults liable if an underage guest gets drunk and causes a car crash.  This provides greater incentive for adults to think twice before allowing their kids, or their friends, to drink even a little bit before getting behind the wheel.  Ironically, is the Assemblyman for Beverly Hills because an incident with parents giving teenagers champagne before prom sparked the oft-mocked "Donna Martin Graduates" episodes on the original Beverly Hills 90210.

Other safety changes require all motorcycle drivers to complete a fifteen hour training course before earning a learner's permit and laws increasing reckless driving penalties for paparazzi chasing celebrities.

California's Personal Vehicle Sharing Law, first reported by San Francisco Streetsblog, also goes into effect.  This law makes it illegal for insurance companies to cancel insurance for personal vehicles that are being used for car-sharing.  City Share, a personal car share company based in the Bay Area, is already taking advantage of this new law.

But my favorite new law doesn't effect moving cars, but parked ones.  A new law, AB 2567 authored by Gardena Assemblyman Steve Bradford, authorizes cities to install and operate cameras on street sweepers to digitally photograph vehicles that are parked on streets when street sweeping is posted to occur.  Critics of the law are already comparing the plan to an Orwellian Big Brother plot, but this program literally would only photograph cars that are parked illegally.

Thanks to cuts to the state's Medi-Cal program, motorists caught breaking the law will be charged $4 for the next six years to pay for emergency air-lifts.  This seems like a random place to generate revenue for this program, until you consider how many of these airlifts are needed because of unsafe driving.

Four more years!
Four more years!

And a last new law wasn't about change but about preserving the status-quo for "clean cars" and the state's HOV Lanes.  Hybrid vehicles adorned with the "yellow sticker" advertising its clean air status will be allowed to use HOV lanes as though they had multiple passengers until July 1 of this year.  Cars with "white stickers" showing that they are electric or "compressed natural gas" will have HOV privileges until January of 2015.  The new law creates a third sticker, for plug-in hybrid vehicles, to be issued and to allow access to HOV lanes also until 2015.

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