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The New Laws of the Road for 2009

Or, Why You May Have Been Accidentally Breaking the Law Since Jan. 1


As the clock struck midnight on the first day of January 2009, citizens of California were under new and stricter laws, whether they knew it or not. While texting while driving expectably received a lot of pre-2009 buzz, most laws look to update penalties for unlawful behavior. These new California laws are listed by their number and by the state representative who took the primary role in getting them passed.

SB 1720 is a new law, promoted by Alan Lowenthal, California senator of the 27th District in the Long Beach area, which make it now illegal to forge a Clean Air sticker, or use a sticker on a car that does not actually have the standards set for low emission vehicles. Cars with these stickers are allowed to drive in the HOV lane.

SB 1720, also by Lowenthal, allows police to impound a vehicle that is sold by an unlicensed dealer.

SB 28 is the much-talked about law prohibiting people from reading or writing text messages while driving their cars. It was pushed through by 11th District Senator Joe Simitia of the Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Santa Clara areas. Texting (and talking) on the phone is now an infraction and will cost a driver $76 for the first offense.

AB1165, written by San Bernardino’s termed-out 34th District State Assemblymember Bill Maze, states that if a driver is pulled over with a blood alcohol content of 0.01 or greater during his or her court-ordered post-DUI probation, then the car will be impounded and the driver’s license will be revoked for one year. This is zero-tolerance policy.

AB 2241, written and promoted by San Diego 76th District Assemblymember Lori Saldana, states that the red numbers used to allow a driver to put off passing a smog test for up to 60 days - called Temporary Operating Permits - will no longer be issued by the DMV for free. They will cost $50, require registration by the 60th day, and will only be given if a car actually took a smog test but failed.

SB 1455, or the “Gold Star Family license plate law,” makes it possible for citizens who have a family member who was a soldier killed during wartime to qualify to receive this commemorative license frame. It was written by San Joaquin Valley’s Senator Dave Cogdill of the 14th District.

AB 2272 was edited by California’s 39th District Assemblymember, Felipe Fuentes, to redefine motorcycles and electrically powered vehicles as equivocal under California law while also eliminating definition of them by weight. Also, three-wheeled vehicles will be permitted in the HOV lanes.

SB 1190 was changed by Senator Jenny Oropeza of California’s 28th District so that first-time DUI offenders are considered for a Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) if their blood alcohol content is 0.15 or higher. The previous limit was 0.2.

SB 1388, modified by Walnut Creek’s Assemblymember Tom Torlakson, now mandates that IIDs are to be issued by the DMV instead of the courts. The DMV can force any driver with a DUI to have an IID installed on the car that person owns or operates.

AB 2802 Termed-out 15th District Assemblymember Guy Houston from San Ramon added more to the existing DUI laws by adding this code: If a person has, within the last 10 years, a DUI or a reckless driving under the influence on his/her record and is convicted of the the latter, then that person must attend a DUI program lasting at least nine months.

SB 1567, also known as Oropeza’s law, states that Global Position System (GPS) devices may only be used for navigation, must be outside of the airbag deployment pathway, and if mounted in a windshield, can only be so on the lower part in a 5-inch square on the driver’s side or a 7-inch square on the passenger side.

AB 1976 states that using or allowing the use of 911 for anything else besides an emergency will constitute an infraction. The person responsible and will receive either a warning or a fine.

AB 190, written by Speaker of the Assembly and 47th District representative Karen Bass, states that any veteran displaying a veteran license plate may park in a meter zone free of charge as long as their vehicle weighs less than three tons.

AB 1971, from 44th District Assemblymember Anthony Portantino of Pasadena, states that tires with retractable metal stubs will be allowed on the roads as long as the stubs, when tucked in, do not protrude past the tire line. The stubs must be retracted from May to October.

AB 2714, written by Rick Keene of the 3rd District, modified a law so that vehicles carrying straw or hay will not be ticketed if nonthreatening pieces fall off, assuming the cargo is secured according to federal regulations.

And, finally, SB 1509 was modified by Lowenthal so that assault or battery of on-duty Caltrans workers will result in a higher penalty.

Suzanne Heibel is an Independent intern.

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