New year, new state laws face California drivers, workers, families

January 6, 2021 | 5:00 am


The New Year means new rules for Californians, including for drivers.

New state laws for 2021 include those aiming to crack down even more on distracted driving, protecting crews working on the side of the road, and preventing those who break into a car to rescue a child from facing charges, among others. Read on to learn more about these new laws.

License Points for Distracted Driving (AB 47): Drivers who violate the hands-free law by using a handheld cell phone while driving for a second time within 36 months will have a point added to their driver’s record. It 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. (Begins July 1)

“Move Over, Slow Down” Amendments (AB 2285): Drivers coming up on a stationary emergency vehicle displaying emergency lights — applying to local streets and road now, and not just freeways — will be required to move to another lane if possible or slow to a reasonable speed. It also applies to tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles. This extends the state’s “Move Over, Slow Down” law that went into effect in 2020, which allows authorized emergency vehicles to use a “Hi-Lo” warning sound, different from a siren, to let the public know they need to evacuate an area in an emergency. Learn more about work zone safety awareness at bit.ly/workzoneaware. (Begins Jan. 1)

Unattended Children in Motor Vehicles (AB 2717): A person damages a vehicle while rescuing a child from a vehicle from heat, cold, lack of ventilation or other dangers will be exempt from civil or criminal liability or trespassing. The law only applies if the child is 6 years old or younger under dangerous conditions “that reasonably could cause suffering, disability, or death.” The steps that should be taken include calling 911, ensuring the vehicle is locked and there is no other way to enter the car without forced entry, and having a “good faith belief” that rescuing the child is necessary due to imminent potential harm. (Begins Jan. 1)

Real ID Deadline (AB 1480): The deadline to get a Real ID driver’s license or state ID card is Oct. 1, 2021, according to the California DMV. If you want to continue using your driver’s license or ID card to “board domestic flights within the U.S.” and “enter secure federal facilities,” it is recommended that you apply. People must complete the online application and bring required documents before visiting a field office.

 

OTHER NON-VEHICLE LAWS FOR 2021

Minimum Wage : As part of California’s continued incremental raising of the minimum wage, it will go up to $14 per hour on Jan. 1 for employers with 26 or more employees. Businesses with 25 or fewer employers must increase minimum wage to $13 per hour. Minimum wage may be higher where you live already based on local laws.

Use of Force: The law requires law enforcement policies to require officers to immediately report potential excessive force, and to intercede when present and observing an officer using excessive force. The bill would also prohibit retaliation against officers who report violations of law or regulation of another officer to a supervisor. Another law (AB 1196) prohibits police from using chokeholds and carotid holds after a number of high-profile deaths in police custody around the nation. Learn more about Kern County’s ongoing issue with excessive force at bit.ly/kernprotests.

Sheriff Oversight: This law authorizes counties to establish sheriff oversight boards and an office of inspector general and empowers them to issue subpoenas “when deemed necessary to investigate a matter within their jurisdiction.” Click here to learn more about the settlement between the California Department of Justice and Kern County Sheriff’s Office after an investigation into civil rights violations and excessive force allegations, some of which stem from Chain | Cohn | Stiles cases.

Employment Safety (AB 685): Employers must inform employees and take measures if COVID-19 exposure occurs. The employer will be required to provide written notice of exposure to employees on the worksite premises, as well as provide information about COVID-related benefits to exposed workers. The employer must also report the exposure to their local public health agency within 48 hours. Learn more about worker safety issues, and benefits available to workers who contract COVID-19 at work, by clicking here.

Family and Medical Leave (SB 1383): People who directly employ five or more employees will be required to provide unpaid family and medical leave to those who qualify. It also will allow employees to take protected leave to care for an expanded set of family members.

Prisoner Gender Identity: The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will be required by law to ask all inmates for their gender identity, and to recognize and address inmates by their gender pronoun in all communications. The law also stipulates that transgender inmates must be housed at a facility matching their gender identity, unless the department can provide “a specific and articulable basis” for denying that housing due to security or management concerns. Under the law, transgender, non-binary and intersex inmates must be searched by an officer whose gender identity matches that of the inmate, or by an officer whose gender matches the designation of the facility housing the inmate if the inmate’s gender identity cannot be determined.

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‘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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Take the pledge: April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April 4, 2014 | 9:59 am


Put down the cell phone, and stay alive.

That’s the message this month from the National Safety Council and National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration as April is “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

Thousands die each year due to people using their cell phones while driving. In fact, here are some startling statistics, courtesy of the safety council:

  • The No. 1 cause of unintentional deaths in the United States is car crashes.
  • About 100 people die every day in car crashes.
  • Up to 90 percent of car crashes are caused by driver error.
  • At any moment, 9 percent of drivers are talking on cell phones.
  • About 26 percent of all car crashes involve cell phones or hands-free devices.
  • The NHTSA estimates that 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 were injured in distraction-related crashes in 2012.

As part of the month-long campaign, officials want drivers to pledge to drive cell-free, recognize that hands-free devices offer no safety benefit, understand the dangers of the cognitive distraction to the brain, and tell others about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving.

Down south, too, the Los Angeles Police Department kicked off the “Look Up!” campaign, in partnership with the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration’s “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month”. It’s aimed to bring awareness to the public about the dangers of texting and driving.

For example, statistics show that every time a driver sends a text message he looks at the phone for an average of 4.6 seconds, and in that time a car driving 55 mph will go the length of a football field, according to CBS-2 Los Angeles.

And remember, it’s the law in California, where there’s a ban on hand-held devices for drivers and for texting while driving.

So, are you taking the pledge? To learn more about these facts, the dangers, and what you can do, visit the National Safety Council website.

And for more information, tips and resources on what to do if you’re ever in a car accident in and around Bakersfield and need legal assistance, no matter the type of accident, visit our two websites, HERE and HERE.