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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Crashes Caused By Speeding Have Spiked. Can New Automated Cameras Help Slow Drivers?

April 21, 2021 | 5:00 am


As the year of pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders comes to an end, Americans are returning to deadlier streets.

Traffic deaths in the United States increased in 2020, even as people drove less because of the COVID-19 pandemic. National Safety Council estimates that 4.8 million people were injured in crashes last year and more than 42,000 people died in vehicle crashes, the latter of which is an 8% increase over 2019 and the first jump in four years. In addition, the fatality rate per 100 million miles driven spiked 24%, the largest annual percentage increase since the council began collecting data in 1923.

The reason: More people were speeding as roadways emptied, and police stopped enforcing as many traffic stops to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Those who ventured out found open lanes that invited reckless driving, leading to a sharp increase in traffic-crash deaths across the country, experts say.

Of the reckless behaviors, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show speed to be the top factor, and the high number of speeding drivers is continuing even as traffic is starting to return to pre-pandemic levels. In California, citations issued by the state highway patrol for speeding over 100 mph roughly doubled to 31,600 during the pandemic’s first year.

As an aside, seatbelt use has gone down, and more people have died in crashes with alcohol or other drugs in their system, according to a National Safety Council analysis of trauma centers.

“We need to address traffic violence on our streets,” said David Cohn, managing partner of Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We are seeing risk-taking driving leading to dramatic numbers of injuries and deaths that are 100 percent preventable. It’s terrifying what we’re seeing on our roads.”

Lawmakers have introduced dozens of bills to lower speed limits, set up speed camera programs and promote pedestrian safety.

 

SPEED LIMITS

Different states are addressing the speeding issue in various ways:
  • Some states want to boost the authority of localities to regulate traffic in their communities, such as giving cities and counties more control over speed limits, as legislators have proposed in Michigan, Nebraska and other states.
  • Some want to let communities use speed cameras, which is under consideration in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida and elsewhere.
  • Connecticut is considering a pedestrian safety bill that incorporates multiple concepts, including giving localities greater authority to lower speeds, and letting some municipalities test speed cameras around schools, hospitals and work zones.

California uses something called the “85th percentile” method, a decades-old federal standard. Here’s how it works:

Every 10 years, state engineers survey a stretch of road to see how fast people are driving. Then they base the speed limit on the 85th percentile of that speed, or how fast 85% of drivers are going. a federal report found the 85th percentile rule similarly inadequate to set speeds.

In addition to lowering speed limits, lawmakers also want to better enforce them. In California, two bills would reverse the state’s ban on automated speed enforcement by allowing cities to start speed camera pilot programs in places such as work zones, on particularly dangerous streets and around schools.

 

SPEED CAMERAS

California cities could soon set up automated cameras to catch and ticket speeders on their most dangerous streets. Also known as automated speed enforcement, the cameras measure the speeds of passing cars and snap photos of those going a certain mph over the limit, then mail a ticket to the owner. The cameras can be particularly effective on high-speed streets where serious crashes are common, some experts say. Drivers would be less likely to blast through an area they know has cameras, and while speeders wouldn’t be stopped in the moment, getting a ticket in the mail would make them slowdown in the future.

Assembly member David Chiu of San Francisco, who authored Assembly Bill 550 on automated cameras, says the measure includes safeguards to make the speed camera program fair. It would cap fees at $125, with a sliding scale for low-income drivers, and make violations civil offenses, not criminal.

Several California cities have for years used cameras to catch people who run red lights. But state law as it is currently written doesn’t authorize automated cameras to enforce speed limits. The legislation would authorize local transportation departments and Caltrans to use the cameras in pilot programs, and set up a state work group to create policies for the technology.

While conventional speeding tickets in California often cost hundreds of dollars and add “points” that could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, fines generated by the cameras under the new bill would not generate points and would be capped at a total cost, fees included, of no more than $125.

Chiu’s bill also limits who can access photos, bans the use of facial-recognition technology in the cameras and requires programs to provide a diversion option for less-wealthy drivers who can’t afford to pay their fines.

“This has been about changing driver behavior,” Chiu told the San Jose Mercury News. “This is about saving lives and improving safety.”

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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.