California Drivers Face New Laws in 2011
During 2010, the California State Legislature approved a number of new laws of interest to Automobile Club of Southern California members and motorists. Unless otherwise noted, these measures take effect Jan. 1, 2011.
Local Tickets - SB 949, supported by the Auto Club to clarify existing law, makes it unlawful for local governments to ticket drivers who commit moving violations under municipal codes or other local regulations. All moving violations must be cited under the appropriate state vehicle code section, which specifies penalties. This law ensures that drivers throughout the state will be treated uniformly for moving violations.
Smog Check - Under AB 2289, beginning sometime after Jan. 1, 2013, model-year 2000 and newer vehicles will be tested for smog compliance using the vehicle's onboard diagnostic systems (OBD-II) instead of a tailpipe sensor. If the vehicle is not equipped with OBD-II or has emissions problems, it can be tested using the tailpipe sensor at a test-only station. Changing the testing procedure should reduce the cost of smog checks, according to the California Bureau of Automotive Repair.
Drunk Drivers - Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, AB 1601 authorizes judges to revoke for up to 10 years the driver's license of any person convicted of three or more DUIs in a 10-year period. Current law allows for a license revocation of three years for someone with three or more DUIs in a 10-year period. (In 2008, there were 187,987 DUI convictions in California, 9,164 of which were third-time DUI offenders within 10 years. In addition, drunk drivers killed more than 1,000 people in California and injured 28,000 more.)
Higher Fines for Traffic Citations - AB 2173 raises the cost of moving violation tickets by $4 to fund emergency air-transport services. The bill was adopted to resolve a revenue shortfall for air-transport services because of inadequate Medi-Cal funding. It's estimated that this new surcharge will generate approximately $34 million per year. The law will remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2016.
Carpool Lanes - SB 535 allows solo drivers in hybrid vehicles with DMV-issued yellow carpool lane stickers to continue using High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes until July 1, 2011. It also allows a new class of vehicle -- enhanced Advanced Technology-Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (AT-PZEVs), which includes certain plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles -- to use HOV lanes from Jan. 1, 2012, to Jan. 1, 2015, with only the driver in the car. (To find out more about which single-occupant vehicles can use HOV lanes, go to the Air Resources Board website: http://arb.ca.gov/msprog/carpool/carpool.htm.) White HOV-lane stickers for natural gas vehicles remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2015.
Street-Sweeper Cameras - AB 2567 authorizes local agencies to install and operate a camera on street sweepers to digitally photograph vehicles that are parked on streets when street sweeping is posted to occur. The camera may not be used to ticket vehicles parked on the street after the sweeping has already taken place. Local agencies will be required to make a public announcement of the camera-enforcement system at least 30 days prior to the effective date and may only issue warnings during that 30-day period.
Social Host Liability - AB 2486 states that if a "social host" 21 years of age or older knowingly gives alcoholic beverages to someone under 21 years of age, the social host may be held legally accountable if that person is injured or dies, and may also be held accountable if other persons are injured or die, or if their property is damaged or destroyed, as a result of the underage person drinking the alcoholic beverage. A social host is a person who provides alcohol to guests at his or her residence; the category does not apply to licensed or commercial alcohol vendors.
The following bill was defeated:
Right Turns on Red - Cities are increasingly using red-light cameras to target drivers who either fail to stop completely or who stop past the limit line when making right turns at intersections. Many cities cite these drivers $440 for the violation, even though the $440 penalty was meant for the much more dangerous violation of running a red light. AB 909 would have clarified that the total fine for violations involving right turns on red would be approximately $210, which is more consistent with other traffic violations, including failure to stop at a stop sign. The Auto Club supported this measure to refocus the programs on safety, instead of on generating money.