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New law keeps teens from driving and texting

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Drivers under the age of 18 will be prohibited from texting, even if their cellphone is connected to a hands-free device, under a new state law that takes effect Wednesday, Jan. 1.

Current state law bans any motorist from using a cellphone without a hands-free device, and bans motorists from writing, sending or reading a text-based communication, unless the electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation.

But now, under SB 194, drivers under 18 may not text at all. The ticket cost for a first infraction is $20 and $50 for each subsequent offense.

According to the California Highway Patrol, this is just one of the numerous transportation-related laws that take effect on Wednesday.

That includes a bill expanding the state’s Amber Alert Law, which currently requires law enforcement agencies to activate an alert system when they are informed of the abduction of a child 17 years of age or younger, or of an individual with a proven mental or physical disability, when they determine the victim is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, and that there is information available that, if disseminated to the general public, could assist with the safe recovery of the victim.

The expanded law requires law enforcement to request activation of the Amber Alert system after receiving a report that a child has been abducted by anyone, including a custodial parent or guardian, who may cause serious bodily injury or death to the child.

Another law extends the statute of limitations for hit-and-run collisions in which death or permanent, serious injury was a result. A criminal complaint may be filed within three years of the offense, or one year after the person was initially identified by law enforcement as a suspect in the commission of the offense, which ever comes later, but in no case more than six years after the offense.

Yet another law, SB 806, authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to establish a pilot program to evaluate the use of alternatives to stickers, tabs, license plates and registration cards, subject to certain requirements. It will also enable the DMV to experiment with electronic license plates, as well as facilitate DMV’s ability to explore cost–effective alternatives to California’s traditional metal license plate, plastic–coated registration stickers and paper registration cards.

Although it won’t go into effect until Sept. 16, another new law mandates that motorists give bicycles three feet of leeway while passing.

Under existing law, a driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle or a bicycle proceeding in the same direction is required to pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle, subject to certain limitations and exceptions. A violation of this provision is an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding $100 for a first conviction, and up to a $250 fine for a third and subsequent conviction occurring within one year of two or more prior infractions.

This bill would enact the Three Feet for Safety Act, which would require the driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway to pass in compliance with specified requirements applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and to do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, and the surface and width of the highway.

The bill would prohibit, with specified exceptions, the driver of the motor vehicle that is overtaking or passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway from passing at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. The bill would make a violation of these provisions an infraction punishable by a $35 fine. The bill would also require the imposition of a $220 fine on a driver if a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist causing bodily harm to the bicyclist, and the driver is found to be in violation of the above provisions.

Another new law, AB 443, prohibits the transfer of ownership of a vehicle to a relative or a revocable living trust until all parking or toll–violation fines and penalties reported to the DMV are paid by the transferee.

And a law that won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2016, requires that every limousine that has been modified or extended to accommodate additional passengers shall have two rear doors and one or two internally removable rear emergency windows. If such modifications occurred on or after July of 2015, these requirements apply immediately after July 1, 2015. All new limousines manufactured after Jan. 1, 2015, must meet these requirements as well.