CALIFORNIA—Starting on January 1, 2017, new traffic laws passed by the state legislature will come into effect with the intent of changing dangerous driving habits and improving safety for all California drivers.
One of the new laws focuses on how drivers who used their phone while driving claimed they were using it for GPS in order to exploit a loophole in the legal system. The new law does not allow for any driver to hold a phone while driving, even if they are using it for navigation.
“People were holding it in their hands using their GPS,” said Officer Juan Galvin with California Highway Patrol to the press. “So this new law is going to eliminate that all together and now you have to have it mounted.”
Rather than holding a phone or GPS to use navigation, the law requires wireless devices to be mounted on the windshield on the lower left corner or in the lower right corner. Another option is to place the device on a dashboard in a place that does not block the driver’s view and does not block the deployment of an airbag. Drivers are still able to operate the devices as long as it is only a single swipe or tap of a finger.
Another law for 2017 affects those who have driven under the influence. The new law requires DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device (IID), which is a device requiring the driver to blow into a mouthpiece before starting the vehicle. The device must be in the DUI offender’s vehicle for a specific amount of time in order to get a restricted driver license or to reinstate their license.
According to the California Highway Patrol, “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 motorcycle lane splitting is a 2017 law that has also been amended. Lane splitting by motorcyclists was not illegal, but it wasn’t defined as legal either. The bill now 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” and makes it legal. The bill also allows the California Highway Patrol to develop lane splitting education guidelines to improve motorcycle safety.
“If traffic is stopped at a standstill, you can’t have a motorcycle that is traveling at 50-60 mph as it’s dangerous for both the motorcyclist and the vehicles around as well,” Galvan said.
Also becoming law for 2017 is increased safety protocols for school buses, charter buses, and tour buses. All school buses for children must be equipped with a “child safety alert system” and every school is required to have a transportation safety plan to make sure students are not left inside a bus unattended.
Charter buses manufactured after July 1, 2020, will be required to have emergency lighting that activate in a collision, and the driver must provide oral and written, or video instructions on safety equipment and emergency exits to all passengers.
The California Highway Patrol will also be required to develop protocol with local governments to increase the number of inspections for tour buses.
A revision to child seat safety law requires children under the age of 2 to ride in a rear-facing child passenger seat, with children weighing 40 or more pounds or standing more than 40 inches tall exempt. California law still requires children under age 8 to sit in a child safety seat in the back seat of a vehicle.