What Not To Do In 2022: Traffic Safety Changes On California’s Roadways In The New Year

December 29, 2021 | 11:02 am


Watch what you do in 2022 … on our roadways, that is.

For the New Year, several new laws will affect roadway safety, including new penalties for street racing “sideshows”, changes in speed limit rules, license points for distracted drivers, rules for riding an equestrian animal on paved roads, and the extension of cocktails to go. The laws are relevant for the Law Offices of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, as the attorneys focus on accident and injury case, including motor vehicle accident cases. Learn more about the new laws below:

 

‘SIDESHOW’ STREET RACING PENALTIES (AB 3)

Assembly Bill 3 is designed to curb illegal street racing locally and statewide. The bill, which was authored by Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) applies penalties used against illegal speed racing and implement them against exhibitions of speed as well. Such exhibitions include the burning out of tires, revving of engines, performing stunts, and other activity intended for an audience or “sideshow” that ultimately leads to a speed contest. Specifically, the vehicle code will define “sideshow” as an “event in which two or more persons block or impede traffic on a highway for the purpose of performing motor vehicle stunts, motor vehicle speed contests, motor vehicle exhibitions of speed, or reckless driving for spectators.

The bill passed with “overwhelming bipartisan support,” The Bakersfield Californian reported.

“I authored this bill in response to what our local law enforcement officials have conveyed as a troubling and problematic trend in our neighborhoods,” Fong said in the statement. “We need to increase the penalties for illegal street racing activities to send a message that this activity will not be tolerated.”

As for penalties, courts will be permitted to suspend a driver’s license between 90 days and six months. (effective July 1, 2025). The courts will be required to consider a defendant’s medical, personal, or family hardship that requires a person to have a driver’s license before determining whether to suspend a person’s driver’s license.

The issue hits close to home for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which is representing one of the children who suffered major injuries in that November 2019 crash that killed 58-year-old Maria Blaney Navarro. And attorney Matt Clark has been featured in local news interviews on the issue.

 

DISTRACTED DRIVER POINTS (AB 47)

Assembly Bill 47 states that a driver convicted of using a mobile phone without a hands-free device for a second time within a 36-month period will have a point added to his or her license. The first violation is currently punishable by a fine. This applies to the violations of talking or texting while driving, except for hands-free use, and to any use of these devices while driving by a person under 18 years of age.

 

SPEED LIMITS (AB 43)

Assembly Bill 43 authorizes local authorities to reduce speed limits to protect the safety of vulnerable groups such as pedestrians and cyclists. This law gives California cities more control to set speeds based on safety. Currently, the state largely has authority over speed limits and sets them based on the movement speed of 85% of traffic on any given street. AB 43 would allow cities to reduce speeds by increments of 5 mph by letting local officials factor the safety of pedestrians and cyclists when conducting the speed traffic surveys California uses to determine streets’ speed limits. The bill requires that cities take into account the presence of vulnerable groups, including children, seniors, the unhoused and persons with disabilities when setting speed limits, and would permit cities to reduce speed limits on streets with a track record of traffic safety issues, including school zones, according to Natural Resources Defense Council.

 

HELMETS AND EQUESTRIAN ANIMALS (AB 974)

Assembly Bill 974 requires anyone under 18 years old who rides an equestrian animal — horses, mules and donkeys — on a paved highway to “wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet.” The legislation is intended to enforce the same requirements for youths who ride bikes, non-motorized scooters, skateboards, in-line and roller skates. The new law also requires a person of any age to wear reflective gear or a lamp while riding equestrian animals after dark on paved highways. Fines for first-time violators are $25 per infraction. However, anyone using an equestrian animal in a parade or festival is exempt from the helmet and gear provisions, according to the legislation.

 

VEHICLES ON RESERVATIONS (AB 798)

Assembly Bill 798 removes restrictions previously imposed on federally recognized Native American tribes operating emergency vehicles on their reservations. There are 109 designated tribes statewide, one of which is in Kern County (Tejon Indian Tribe). The bill specifically permits all the tribes to acquire and deploy ambulances, as well as firefighting and other emergency vehicles, without the state requiring that the vehicles be inspected by the CHP, and without those individuals who may legally operate them having to go through the Department of Motor Vehicles for special licenses. Previously, the state treated tribal emergency vehicles the same as privately operated ones, mandating rigorous inspection and licensing. However, the legislation recognized that the tribes are sovereign and self-governing, and that imposing a lengthy approval process was unjustified.

 

COCKTAILS TO-GO (SB 389)

Senate Bill 389 allows restaurants to continue selling cocktails and wine to go until Dec. 31, 2026. However, the delivery of cocktails ended Dec. 31, 2021. To-go alcohol began after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, never take a sip while in your vehicle. Please, always drive sober!

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Distracted driving injures 400,000 people and kills 4,000 each year. Here’s how to avoid driving distracted, and save lives.

April 7, 2021 | 12:21 pm


We all know to buckle up when we get behind the wheel of a vehicle, because we know seat belts save lives. But did you know another step could save thousands of more lives?

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is joining law enforcement and safety officials in asking drivers to give it a rest — your phone, that is. Stashing away your phone while driving can help you avoid distractions, and avoid crashes.

In fact, each year more than 400,000 people are injured and more than 3,000 people are killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, making up nearly 10% of all fatal crashes, according to the latest figures from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In California, nearly 20,000 crashes took place that involved distracted driving, which resulted in more than 100 deaths and 13,500 injuries, according to CHP.

Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes off the road. This includes adjusting mirrors, eating or drinking, using the audio or multimedia system, and adjusting the heating and cooling systems in a car.

But phones, by far, are the biggest distractions.

“Any distraction can cause a crash. We strongly urge drivers to focus on what’s most important, and that’s the road in front of them,” said David Cohn, managing partner and car accident attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “When you are driving, give the phone a rest. Together, we can save lives and eliminate this dangerous behavior on our roadways.”

 

IT’S THE LAW

Law enforcement officials this month specifically are hoping to raise awareness and increase enforcement of distracted driving violations. CHP is teaming up with the California Office of Traffic Safety and “Impact Teen Drivers” for Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

A new law that will take effect in July 2021 in California, violating the hands-free law for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point being added to a driver’s record. This applies to the violations of talking or texting while driving (except for hands-free use). Drivers under 18 are not allowed to use a phone for any reason, including hands-free.

A 2020 California public opinion survey found that more than 75% of surveyed drivers listed “distracted driving because of texting” as their biggest safety concern.

CHP will conduct several distracted driving enforcement operations through September 30. Funding for distracted driving enforcement operations are provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

HOW TO AVOID DISTRACTED DRIVING

Did you know the time it would take to write a text going 55 miles per hour, you travel about the length of a football field? Texting also increases the risk of a crash 23 times, according to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Scary, right?

Here are a few ways to avoid distractions while driving:

  • Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation, perhaps in the trunk, glove box, or back seat.
  • If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
  • If you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while driving.
  • If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
  • Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
  • Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
  • Activate “Do Not Disturb.” Setting up this feature on iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.
  • Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.
  • Properly secure your kids or pets. Make sure everyone is properly buckled in and retrained.
  • Avoid grooming, reading and applying makeup while driving.
  • Drowsy driving is distracted driving, so never drive when you’re too tired.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

‘U Drive U Text U Pay’: Officials cracking down on dangerous distracted driving

October 7, 2020 | 10:05 am


At any given moment across the United States, about 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And on a typical day, more than 700 people are injured in distracted driving crashes. Even more, nearly 3,000 people are killed and an estimated 400,000 are injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Simply, distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic on America’s roadways because distracted drivers aren’t just a threat to themselves, they’re a danger to everyone else on the road.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is joining national distracted driving efforts focusing on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness, and education.

“Talking on a phone, even while using a hands-free device, or texting or using an infotainment system in your vehicle diverts your attention away from driving,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner and attorney David Cohn. “Please focus on the road, and just drive.”

Locally, Bakersfield Police Department is stepping up patrols in search of distracted drivers in support of the NHTSA’s “U Drive U Text U Pay” enforcement campaign, according to the department. BPD is joining other law enforcement agencies across California in increase enforcement of distracted driving laws. In particular, officers will be looking out for drivers who break the state’s hands-free cellphone law.

Distracted driving is especially dangerous for younger drivers. In fact, drivers 15 to 19 years old are involved in more fatal crashes involving distractions than any other age group. To help, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently awarded 11 drivers education scholarships as part of the new “Guided Partners in Safety (GPS) Scholarship” program aimed to help pay for student driver’s education training, while keeping safety at the forefront.

California law prohibits all motorists from using a cellphone while driving, except when used in hands-free mode. A first offense results in a $20 fine, and for a second or subsequent offense, the fine is $50. For violations that occur on or after July 1, 2021, the DMV will assess one point if the violation was within 36 months of a prior conviction. Emergency service professionals are exempt from the cellphone ban while operating an authorized emergency vehicle.

Here’s what you can do to eliminate distracted driving from your travels (courtesy of AARP).

  • Unplug: Keep your cell phone on silent and where you can’t see it light up for every notification you receive. If a phone call or text message is really important, it’s best to pull over into a safe location before using your phone.
  • Refuel: Drowsy driving is distracted driving, so never drive when you’re too tired.
  • Focus: When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention to what’s happening all around your vehicle. Frequently scan your mirrors and watch your speed.
  • Secure your cargo: Prevent loose items in your car from startling you in the event of sudden braking by securing your cargo. Also, never place smaller items on your lap or on the floor near the driver-side foot pedals.

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Safety Tips: Catch them all, but be careful while playing Pokémon Go

September 7, 2016 | 6:00 am


By now, you’ve likely heard of the game Pokemon Go, which has taken the country by storm and has been a huge hit for gamers of all ages. And if you have heard of the game, then you’ve probably heard of various incidents of people getting injured while playing. 

The Bakersfield injury, accident and workers’ compensation lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles remind all gamers to practice safety while playing Pokémon Go, and read the tips below for an injury-free experience.

If you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go, click here to learn all about the game. In short, it’s a location-based reality game in which players use a mobile device’s GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. And it’s free!

There are 150 different types of Pokémon to be caught, but to catch them you have to find them first, and the game requires you to walk around to find Pokemon. “Poke stops” are everywhere, including at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Visit the Park at River Walk in Bakersfield to find it full of kids, teens, and adults walking around catching Pokemon on their phones.

And while the game has players out and about being active, it’s also led to injuries and other incidents caused by distracted playing. In the last few weeks, Pokemon Go has been connected to the following incidents in the United States:

  • A 15-year-old Pennsylvania girl was struck by a car while playing (WPXI)
  • A 28-year-old driver in Auburn crashed into a tree while playing (Auburnpub.com)
  • Two men fell off cliffs in Encinitas while playing. (San Diego Tribune)
  • A man crashed into a parked police cruiser while playing the game. (Huffington Post)

The problem lies in distracted playing, as players focus on the phone in front of them instead of their surroundings. Please follow these tips to stay safe while catching Pokemon:

  • Do not go out alone to play Pokemon Go.
  • Always check your surroundings while playing.
  • Be alert at all times while playing.
  • Do not trespass onto private property.
  • Let someone know where you are going to be when venturing out.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, catch Pokemon while driving.
  • Do not go into unsafe or suspicious areas to catch a Pokemon.

Just recently, Pokemon Go updated the game to include safety warnings such as “remember to be alert at all times,” “stay aware of your surroundings,” “Do not trespass while playing Pokémon Go,” “Do not play Pokémon Go while driving,” and “Do not enter dangerous areas while playing Pokémon Go.”

And most recently, The California State Assembly introduced a measure that would expand the ban on texting while driving to include other distracting operations of smartphones, including searching for “Pokemon Go” characters, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Playing Pokemon Go is a great way to get active and explore areas around you, but Chain | Cohn | Stiles advises you to not put yours or others’ lives at risk to catch a Pokemon.

— By Marisol Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, call Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.