New law would add a point to a person’s driving record for all second-time non-hands-free cellphone violations
With 2021 only days away, many California agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, are giving drivers within the state fair warning on new laws going into effect in the new year. The CHP in particular highlighted three new laws in a recent press release, noting that each of the new laws will be bringing a large change to current laws.
This article was written by Evan Symon of California Globe.
California Globe sat down with former Department of Transportation road analyst and current traffic law expert witness Justin Teecher about what the new laws mean and how they will affect Californians.
Assembly Bill 2717, authored by Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Arcadia), would exempt people who rescue an endangered child aged 7 or below from an unattended vehicle from criminal or civil liability starting on January 1st. The child would have to be in an unattended situation in a vehicle under conditions “that reasonably could cause suffering, disability, or death”, with AB 2717 noting that it could dangerously hot conditions, dangerously cold conditions, a lack of ventilation, or other endangering condition.
However, action could only take place once other steps are taken, including calling 911, ensuring the vehicle is locked, that there is no other way in the car, and having a “good faith” belief that the child is in imminent danger.
“AB 2717 is pretty much there because of a rise of the number of kids being left in cars alone,” noted Teecher. “There’s been horror stories of kids dying in the car. Before this bill was passed in California, the law wasn’t as tough and didn’t give good Samaritans or those who saw this sort of thing enough protections.
“And in some places outside of California, the law is actually harsher if you do this sort of thing to a dog or something. The bill pretty much allows people to save them by breaking into the car, but only after all other options have been exhausted.”
Also coming into effect on January 1st is Assembly Bill 2285. Authored by the Transportation Committee, AB 2285 will extend the “Move Over, Slow Down” law that has drivers on highways move over a lane and slow down when driving by a stopped emergency or first responder vehicle to local streets and roads.
While stopped emergency or first responder vehicles must show lights to be in effect, the law will apply to vehicles ranging from emergency vehicles such as ambulances and police cars to other first responder vehicles such as tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles. Any violations of the law will result in a $50 ticket.
“Another common sense law,” Teecher explained. “We all know the law with emergency vehicles coming down the road you pull all the way to the side of the road to let them pass. Same principle here, except that traffic can continue. It’s being put into place because of a lot of accidents where cars went the speed limit without slowing down near these pulled over vehicles and hit them or clipped people near them because there wasn’t enough time for them to go fully around.
“It’s nothing really controversial, just more of correcting a mistake really. It was unanimous all the way, so even the lawmakers saw that.”
Greater non-hands-free cellphone violations on the way this summer
In July, another bill will also take effect. Assembly Bill 47, authored by Assemblyman Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), will strengthen the hands-free mobile phone law. While using a handheld cell phone or other similar device is already illegal under California law, AB 47 would add a point to a person’s driving record for all second-time offenses made within 36 months. Except in hands-free cases, talking or texting while driving will be covered under the new bill, as will all devices regardless of being hands-free for all drivers under the age of 18.
“A lot of states are really pushing harsher penalties on talking while driving, or texting while driving, laws,” added Teecher. “California is no exception. One point for a second offense may not sound like a lot, but it can cause all-out bedlam for insurance rates. Not to mention that a single point may be the straw that broke the camel’s back and cause a license suspension. So, while it may not seem like it at first glance, this will wreck many people’s records, insurance rates, license legality, and so much more.
“And it’s a simple fix – stay off your phone, Bluetooth it, or if it’s doubling as a GPS, pull over and fix it there. The law just got much more serious.”
AB 2717 and AB 2285 are to come into law on January 1st, with AB 47 to be enacted on July 1st.