The new year will bring a host of new traffic and vehicle laws to California motorists.
The laws, signed throughout the year by Gov. Jerry Brown, address subjects ranging from bicycle safety buffers to veteran's license plates.
Here they are:
• Assembly Bill 1371, by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, requires drivers traveling in the same direction as a bicycle to allow a minimum 3 feet of distance between any part of the vehicle and bicycle. The "Three Feet for Safety Act," also requires - if 3 feet is not possible - that drivers slow down and only pass when there is no danger present to the bicyclist. Failing to follow this protocol could result in a fine, regardless of whether an accident takes place. This law becomes effective on Sept. 16.
• Assembly Bill 266 and Senate Bill 286 by former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Santa Monica, and state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, together extend the expiration dates for low emission, zero emission vehicles to operate in high occupancy vehicle lanes without having to meet occupancy requirements to Jan. 1, 2019.
• Assembly Bill 1047 by Assemblyman Eric Linder, R-Corona, gives the DMV the ability to conduct the commercial drive test for the holder of an out-of-state commercial learner's permit. The department would also send the information to the motor vehicle department in the applicant's state of residence electronically. The license class definition will also be modified by AB 1047 to require a driver operating a bus weighing more than 26,000 pounds to hold a commercial Class B license. A driver operating a bus weighing 26,000 pounds or less would be required to hold a commercial Class C license.
• Senate Bill 806 by state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, allows the DMV to establish a pilot program to check the use of alternatives to stickers, license plates, tags, and registration cards, which would be subject to certain requirements. In addition, it would allow the DMV to experiment with electronic license plates and aid DMV's ability to explore cost-effective alternatives to California's traditional metal license plate, paper registration cards, and plastic-coated registration stickers.
• Assembly Bill 443, by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, makes the ownership transfer of a vehicle to a relative of revocable living trust unlawful until all parking or toll-violation fines and penalties reported to the DMV to be paid by the transferee.
• Senate Bill 194, by state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, states that a person under the age of 18 cannot use an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read text-based communications while driving, even with the aid of a hands-free device.
• Assembly Bill 244, by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, states that the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) must sponsor a veterans' special interest license plate and requires the DMV to issue the veterans' plate as long as the CalVet meets the current statutory requirements. In addition to the current Honoring Veterans design of the Veterans Organization Plate, the law creates a new program to reissue the Veteran design that was issued before Jan. 1, 2010. In order for the department to implement this plate program, the Department of Veterans Affairs must secure 7,500 pre-paid applications. These plates will be available for all vehicle owners.
The Department of Motor Vehicles will also begin implementing Assembly Bill 60 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, a new law that requires the DMV to issue a drivers license to an applicant who cannot provide satisfactory proof that he/she is in the United States legally. This would require drafting new regulations and preparing field offices the ability to process new applications. The applicant would be required to meet all other drivers license qualifications. This law is slated to go into effect by Jan. 1, 2015.
Officer Nick Norton, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol office in Jamestown, said that all of 2014's new traffic laws are ready to be enforced.
In regard to the Three Feet for Safety Act, however, he said there will be a grace period for the first few months of the year where the CHP will mostly educate the public about the new law rather than write them tickets. He also made it clear that a vehicle must abide by all other laws in the process of passing a vehicle safely. For example, passing over the double yellow in order to safely pass a vehicle is still illegal and will result in a ticket.
Norton also said that bicyclists are expected to be aware and stay as far to the right as possible.
In regard to teenagers and texting, Norton said there will be no grace period.