New year, new rules of the road — plus added enforcement this weekend

This weekend will be a "maximum enforcement period" so get your designated drivers ready! Plus new rules you need to know for 2017.

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MENDOCINO Co., 12/29/16 — As 2017 approaches, all drivers should know there are several new laws impacting California drivers that will go into effect beginning January 1. These include banning drivers from holding a mobile phone, instead requiring mobile devices to be mounted to a dashboard or mounted in a similar way. New legislation also requires all children under two years old to be placed in a rear-facing car seat, changes to requirements for ignition “interlock devices” for drivers found under the influence, and changes to regulations for tour busses, charter and school busses, and programs for motorcycle lane-splitting. Scroll down for more information on these regulations.

In addition, this weekend the California Highway Patrol is implementing a “maximum enforcement period” (MEP) to ensure safety on the roads during the New Year’s holiday, with all available staff on duty watching out for roadway safety. The MEP will take place from 6:01 p.m. on Friday, December 30, 2016, to 11:59 p.m. on Monday, January 2, 2017. The main focus for the CHP will be on impaired drivers, but “officers will also watch for distracted driving, speeding, and seat belt violations, as well as motorists in need of assistance.”

The CHP encourages you to make arrangements for a ride home before you head out to your parties this Saturday, as New Year’s eve is a particularly dangerous time on the roads. According to a recent press release, “during the New Year’s holiday in 2015, 27 people died in collisions on California roadways,” and during last year’s holiday MEP, officers made more than 920 “driving under the influence” arrests. December usually involves a 12% increase in accidents, and the CHP estimates 40% of the total are caused by impaired drivers. 

New Road Rules:

This past year, several new pieces of legislation impacting traffic safety were passed and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, and will go into effect on January 1. The following information is from a CHP press release.

Here’s the information from the press release, with each description taken from the summary provided by the CHP. The complete text of the legislation can be found by clicking the link for each new law:

Child safety seats (AB 53, Garcia)  Although this law was passed during the 2015 legislative session, it takes effect January 1, 2017.  Children under two years of age must ride rear-facing in an appropriate child passenger safety seat.  Children weighing 40 or more pounds, or standing 40 or more inches tall, are exempt.  California law continues to require that all children under the age of eight be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat in the back seat of a vehicle.

 Vehicles:  Use of Wireless Electronic Devices (AB 1785, Quirk)  Motorists are no longer permitted to hold a wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device while driving a motor vehicle.  Rather than holding the device, it must be mounted in the 7-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver or in a 5-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver.  Another option is to affix the device to the dashboard in a place that does not obstruct the driver’s clear view of the road and does not interfere with the deployment of an airbag.

The law does allow a driver to operate one of these devices with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the finger, but not while holding it.

 Driving under the influence:  Ignition Interlock Device (SB 1046, Hill)  This law requires a driving under the influence (DUI) offender to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle for a specified period of time in order to get a restricted driver license or to reinstate their license.  The law also removes the required suspension time before a person can get a restricted license, provided that the offender installs an IID on their vehicle.  The law extends the current four-county (Sacramento, Los Angeles, Alameda, Tulare) DUI IID pilot program until January 1, 2019, at which time all DUI offenders statewide will be required to install an IID to have their license reinstated.

Vehicle Motorcycles:  Lane Splitting (AB 51, QuirkCurrent law does not change; lane splitting by a motorcyclist remains legal if done safely.  This bill defines lane splitting as driving a motorcycle, which has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane.  The bill permits the CHP to develop lane splitting educational safety guidelines in consultation with other state traffic safety agencies and at least one organization focused on motorcycle safety.

 School Bus Safety :  Child Alert System (SB 1072, Mendoza)  This law requires all school buses, school pupil activity buses, youth buses, and child care motor vehicles used to transport school-age children to be equipped with a “child safety alert system.”  Every school is required to have a transportation safety plan with procedures to ensure that a pupil is not left unattended in a vehicle.

 Charter Bus Safety Improvements (SB 247, Lara)  All buses manufactured after July 1, 2020, will be required to have emergency lighting fixtures that will turn on in the event of an impact or collision.  The law also requires a bus company to ensure the driver of the charter bus provides oral and written, or video instructions to all passengers on safety equipment and emergency exits on the bus prior to any trip.

 Tour Buses:  Safety Inspections (AB 1677, Ting)  This new law requires the CHP to develop protocols for entering into a memorandum of understanding with local governments to increase the number of inspections for tour buses operated within their jurisdiction.

We’ve included the links to the text of the legislation with each new law. For complete information on bills enacted in 2016, please refer to the Legislative Counsel Web site.

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