2016 traffic laws

New 2016 Traffic Laws

New Year ...... New Laws 

With the coming of the new year comes a new set of traffic-related laws that affect the daily commute of California motorists and cyclists alike.


Ignorance of the law does not excuse anyone, so we thought it best to give you a rundown of the laws covering a wide variety of areas from hit and run cases, to DUI and because of its popularity of late, motorized boards. The new laws were signed by Gov. Jerry Brown during the 2015 legislative session and took effect January 1, 2016.


So now, the following laws apply whether you are driving, bicycling or skateboarding:

AB8: Hit and Run Incidents and the Yellow Alert


The number of incidents involving hit-and-run drivers is at an all time high. The tragedy of this is that often, an injured pedestrian, bicyclist or another driver is left in the wake of the fleeing driver. The reasons for running are many - some do not possess a driver’s license, or there’s warrant of arrest out for the driver. Drivers are also most likely to run when they have been drinking or are under the influence of drugs. And sadly, some are just unwilling to accept the consequences of their irresponsibility.


It is because of this that AB8, introduced by local Assemblyman Mike Gatto, was passed. Starting January 1st, law enforcement agencies can now request for yellow alerts to be issued for hit-and-run incidents that result in death or major injuries for which they have information about the suspect or the suspect’s vehicle. This includes even a partial license plate number.


The California Highway Patrol works with the requesting law enforcement agencies to determine whether an incident warrants activation of the emergency system. The law authorizes the CHP to use digital changeable message signs on freeways when requested by local law enforcement. Likewise, it enlists the assistance of radio, television as well as cable and satellite systems in disseminating information regarding the hit-and-run suspect or his vehicle.


A mother was instrumental in the passing of this law. In 2015, Julie Creed’s 18 year old son became a victim of a hit-and-run driver while skating along Alton Parkway. She started an email campaign, contacting every mayor in Orange county and lobbying for the passage of the law introduced by Assemblyman Gatto of Los Angeles. Part of her effort was testifying on behalf of the bill during hearings in Sacramento.


AB 643 Silver Alerts System


The Silver Alerts System is an emergency protocol in place that allows law enforcement agencies to broadcast alerts for missing seniors, people with developmental disabilities or those with cognitive impairment that are believed to be in danger. On January 1, the notification system was amended to allow it to be broadcasted on freeway message signs when a vehicle is associated with a missing person incident.


Senate Bill 61 - DUI Ignition Interlock Device


If a person is found guilty of a DUI in a criminal court in Los Angeles, Alameda, Tulare or Sacramento counties, an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) is required on any vehicle that this person owns or operates. If the device registers alcohol on a driver’s breath, the vehicle will not start. The length of time the device is required to be in his vehicle will depend on how many prior DUI convictions that driver has had.


Senate Bill 61 grants a one-year extension to this pilot project and according to California Highway Patrol’s release, this would impact all 4 counties.


AB 208 Highway Lane Use


An existing law requires slow-moving passenger vehicles to pull over safely and let traffic pass. These vehicles are required to use the next available turnout or other area to let backed-up traffic of five or more vehicles pass. This law has been broadened so that it applies to bicycles, too.


AB 604 Electronically Motorized Boards/Electronic Skateboards


With people turning to alternative modes of transport, certain laws needed to be enacted to govern their use. AB 604 defines and establishes rules for operating these electrically motorized boards a.k.a as electric skateboards. This new law gives the definition of an electric skateboard as any wheeled device that has a floorboard designed to be stood upon while riding that is no longer than 5 feet and no wider than 18 inches.


The wheeled device is designed to be stood on and has an electric propulsion system averaging less than 1,000 watts.


Under the new law, the device can only be operated by people 16 years or older who must wear a bicycle helmet while operating it. Speeds are also restricted to 15 mph on sidewalks, paths, trails and roads that have a maximum posted speed limit of 35 mph.


Unless equipped with lights and reflectors that increase their visibility from all sides, the law also stipulates that electric skateboards cannot be used at night.


AB 1096 Electric Bicycles


This law defines what electric bicycles are and likewise creates three classes of electric bicycles based on their motor speed and level of electric assist. Electric bicycles are defined as those with fully operable pedals and is powered by a motor of less than 750 watts.


Though e-bike operators do not need a driver’s license or registration or license plate to ride them, they are governed by existing traffic laws and still need to abide by them.


SB 491 Earbud or Headset Use


A provision on Senate Bill 491 states that drivers and cyclists cannot wear headsets or ear buds that cover, rest on or are inserted in both ears while operating a motor vehicle or a bicycle. However, drivers of waste equipment, construction and emergency vehicles are exempt and may wear earplugs or headsets for safety purposes.


U.S. Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act


This is part of the FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) signed into federal law December 4, 2015. This law prohibits major rental companies (those whose fleet is more than 35 vehicles) from renting or selling vehicles that are under safety recalls until the vehicles are fixed. The vehicles under recall need to be taken out of operation within 24 hour upon receipt of safety recall notice or within 48 hours for recalls that affect more than 5,000 vehicles in a rental company’s fleet.


Looking ahead, these laws will take effect January 1, 2017:


AB53 Child Safety Seats


This law states that children under the age of 2 must be secured in a rear-facing child passenger safety seat when being driven in a motor vehicle. However, children weighing 40 pounds or are 40 inches or more inches tall are exempt. In addition, California law requires that all kids under 8 years of age be placed in an appropriate child restraint system in the vehicle’s back seat.


SB491 Reporting Traffic Crashes


Motorists involved in a traffic incident that results in property damage of at least $1,000 are required to report it the California Department of Motor Vehicles through an SR-1 form. An existing law which has not been updated since 2002 required motorists to report accidents with more than $750 in damages. The monetary threshold was raised to prevent unnecessary SR-1 reports filed with the DMV monthly.


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