Danville Express

Newsfront - January 5, 2007

New laws took effect Jan. 1

Motorists should be aware of changes in driving rules

by Jordan M. Doronila

The California Highway Patrol hopes new state laws will stop minors from drinking and driving, as well as slow down commuters during emergencies on the freeway.

The California State Legislature passed a series of new traffic laws that started taking effect Monday, Jan. 1.

"Laws are created as guidelines," said California Highway Patrol Officer Scott Yox.

One new law criminalizes driving under the influence for anyone under the age of 21 with any alcohol in their blood.

"The state of California is showing that 'no tolerance' is going to be absolutely enforced," said Yox. "I have made stops (of minors) myself when I was out and about."

As before, drivers over 21 with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater will be arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Additionally, one of the new laws require drivers on the freeway to move over and reduce their speed when emergency vehicles are stationary in an adjacent lane and have their emergency lights on.

Yox recalled a tow truck driver getting killed in Danville by a passing vehicle just a couple of years ago.

"One of our greatest dangers is traffic approaching the freeways," he said. "People are too busy thinking of themselves and driving."

"Hopefully, this law will gain some attention," he added. "The law has a definite benefit to it."

In addition, the Legislature has created an "Emergency Incident Zone," an area on the freeway within 500 feet of a stationary emergency vehicle. Motorists are specifically prohibited from driving in an unsafe manner in this zone, Yox said.

Another new law prohibits motorists from allowing a person to ride in the trunk of their cars and makes it illegal for a person to ride in a trunk of a vehicle. Anyone who breaks this law is subject to punishment of $100 for the first violation, $200 for a second violation, and $250 for a third or subsequent violation.

Another new law increases penalties for a driver convicted of reckless driving or being in a speed contest when he or she causes one or more of the following specified injuries: loss of consciousness; concussion; bone fracture; loss of limb, organ or long-term injury; severe cuts or injuries; brain injury; or paralysis.

Other new laws make it a crime for a person to willfully flee or evade a pursuing peace officer by driving on the wrong side of the road; create additional penalties for moving violations that cause a collision or bodily injury; and establish new regulations that make California law conform to federal requirements pertaining to big rigs.

A law was also passed making it illegal to use a handheld cell phone while driving, but it will not take effect until July 1, 2008. Yox noted that this coming law provides an exemption for emergency purposes.

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