Danville Express

Perspective - January 5, 2007

Keeping our roads safe

Some laws have been around forever. "Thou shalt not kill" comes to mind. But driving laws have been in a constant state of fine-tuning since the horseless carriage came into widespread use less than a century ago. Since too many people forego common sense when driving, these laws are necessary.

On Jan. 1, several new traffic laws went into effect in California. One of the new laws takes a further, logical step against underage drinking and driving, in a true zero-tolerance law. Before, only administrative action could be taken against the driver's license of a person under 21 who was driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .01 or greater; it is now illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system. It was high time this driving law was brought into accordance with the state law that prohibits anyone under 21 from purchasing or consuming alcohol.

Another new law created an Emergency Incident Zone. Drivers within 500 feet of a stationary emergency vehicle that has its emergency lights on must now slow to a safe speed and move out of that lane. It sounds reasonable but, unfortunately, emergency responders are often the victims of vehicles that do not slow down for a tow truck on the side of the freeway.

The Reckless Driving and Speed Contests law increases the penalties for anyone convicted of this offense when it causes one of eight specified injuries. This law might come under the heading of being responsible for one's actions. The outcome of reckless driving might be considered a matter of luck, but when people drive irresponsibly they indeed should be held accountable for any negative consequences.

Responsible drivers were already following these safe practices but the laws had to be enacted to make the others comply. The new law against driving while holding a cell phone does not take effect until July 1, 2008; alas, common sense does not seem to prevail with cell phone use and otherwise responsible people are not self-regulating to stop this dangerous practice. •

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