New driving laws for 2008 

AAA of Northern California says the rules of the roadare changing again and it wants motorists to be aware of several new laws that will affect drivers in the coming year.

Some of the new regulations about to take effect are aimed at improving safety, protecting children and defending the interests of consumers.

AAA of Northern California spokesman Sean Comey said, "We're trying to make sure drivers get fair warning about upcoming changes that will affect them. You don't want flashing lights in your rear view mirror to be your first clue that rules have changed."

Unless otherwise noted, the bills go into effect on Jan. 1.

Under Assembly Bill 868, authored by Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, California will begin work on a study of the effects of fuel temperature on consumers. Liquids such as gasoline are less dense at higher temperatures, which means consumers may receive less fuel than they have paid for. AAA says it supports this research to reveal hidden costs to consumers at the pump.

AB 808, authored by Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, requires applicants for a driver's license or license renewal to sign a declaration that states if they drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs and someone is killed as a result, they can be charged with murder. AAA says it supported the legislation, which will now allow a prosecutor the option to charge a first-time offender with second degree murder in a fatal DUI case.

Senate Bill 67, authored by State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, and supported by AAA, broadens vehicle impound laws to allow law enforcement to seize a vehicle when arresting a driver for reckless driving, reckless driving in an off-street parking area or exhibition of speed. The bill is aimed at cracking down on illegal "sideshows," in which large groups of young people gather on city streets late at night on weekends to watch drivers engage in stunts such as speeding and spinning contests. It re-enacts provisions of a 2002 bill that expired at the beginning of 2007 because Oakland officials failed to document the law's success before its five-year sunset provision took effect.

SB 33, authored by Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and supported by AAA, prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using a cell phone, hand-held or hands-free, or any other mobile service device, such as a BlackBerry, while driving. The bill doesn't go into effect until July 1.

Beginning at the same time, under SB 1613, which was also authored by Simitian and was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a ceremony in Oakland on Sept. 15, 2006, drivers 18 and over must use a hands-free device if they are using a cell phone while driving.

AB 645, authored by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, prohibits courts from allowing persons charged with driving under the influence or with a hit-and-run from attending traffic school. AAA says it supported the legislation because attendance at traffic school for those offenses results in masking a ticket that would otherwise add two recordable points to the person's driving record.

AB 801, authored by Assemblywoman Mimi Walters R-Laguna Niguel, and supported by AAA, prohibits the use of a device that would impair the recognition of a license place by an electronic enforcement device such as a red light camera or those at toll bridge booths.

SB 7, authored by Senator Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, makes it illegal to smoke cigarettes, a cigar or a pipe in a motor vehicle where a minor is present. Violators can receive a fine of up to $100 per person.

Under AB 1612, authored by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, the Biennial Inspection of Terminals program requires a physical inspection of hazardous material commercial vehicle terminals and eliminates

an administrative inspection. AAA says it supported the legislation, which came in response to an accident and subsequent fire caused by a commercial hazmat driver and resulted in destruction of a portion of the MacArthur Maze freeway section in the East Bay on April 29.

AB 118, authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, increases the annual vehicle registration fee and the smog impact fee in order to provide revenue for research and development of alternative fuels.

Consumers can expect to pay from $3 to $11 more when registering their vehicles. This law is in effect from July 2008 through 2016.

SB 976, authored by Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, creates a San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority. AAA says it supported the legislation, which will coordinate emergency activities of all water transportation and related facilities within the Bay Area. The California Department of Motor Vehicle took regulatory action this year to authorize online Mature Driver Improvement (MDI) courses. AAA has partnered with "I Drive Safely" to offer an internet-based MDI course.

AB 1581, authored by Assemblywoman Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, and supported by AAA, requires, to the extent feasible, placement of traffic signals that detect motorcycles and bicycles at intersections.

AB 118, authored by Assembly Speaker Nunez, creates a program to provide grants and loans to fund the research and development of alternative fuels and for a new clean air program. Owners of cars less than six years old would pay an additional $8 for smog abatement fee and an additional $2 for registration. Funding for the program would be derived from a variety of sources with automobiles being the biggest source, contributing about $150 million annually. This law is in effect from July 2008 through 2016.

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