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Posted in: Safety

California Enacts New Laws Affecting the Operation of Cars and Other Vehicles

May 16, 2019

As of January 1, 2019, several new laws, impacting personal injury practitioners and their clients, became active in California. These road and vehicle laws, created and voted on by the California Legislature in 2018, became active at the start of 2019.

These laws have important implications for drivers, and other vehicle operators, including scooter users and renters, and cyclists. Understanding the impact of these laws can help prepare Californians for what lies ahead in 2019.

Motorized Scooters

As the popularity of scooters increases throughout California, new laws have been put in place as a means of regulating the operation of these vehicles in traffic.

Under the newly enacted laws, motorized scooters are not allowed on any highway that has a speed limit above 25 miles per hour. These recent changes to the law also enable scooter operators who are over 18 years of age to operate the scooter without legally requiring them to wear a helmet.

The effects of these changes to scooter laws will be closely watched as motorized scooters become increasingly available, and their incidents of accident increase. To date in California, scooter accidents have resulted in internal bleeding, face lacerations, fractures, and in one reported case, death.

Hit and Run Laws Expanded to Cyclists

Felony hit-and-run laws in California have been expanded to include cyclists riding in bike paths. Cyclists now have a legal responsibility to stop if they were involved in an accident that caused either death or injury to others.

With injury rates in bicycle accidents in California increasing steadily since 2007, this issue has found its way front and center on the legislative agenda. According to the California Department of Public Health, as more Californians opt for bicycles as a means of cost-effective and eco-friendly transportation, the incidents of bicycle-related incidents has increased as well.

DUI Ignition Interlock Updates

One of the more significant legal changes for drivers is the restriction on DUI offenders that will be in effect for the next seven years, through January 1, 2026. Under this law, repeat DUI offenders, and first-time DUI offenders who caused injury to others, will be required to use an ignition interlock device (IID) for 12 to 48 months, based on the court’s discretion.

The use of the IIDs requires the driver to pay for the device, as well as for its installation and maintenance. A DUI offender, whose driver license suspension was processed automatically under California’s Admin Per Se law, can continue driving only if they agree to install the device on every vehicle that they drive. The key exception to this IID law is that it would not apply to DUI offenders when the violation is related to drugs only.

Additionally, the court maintains its discretionary option to require a first-time DUI offender, whose incident did not lead to injuries, to have an IID installed for up to six months. If the IID is not court-ordered, a first-time offender can request the IID restriction so that they can maintain an active driver’s license for the purpose of getting to and from their place of work.

Passing Trash Collectors

Drivers approaching a refuse vehicle must now be aware of new laws that require drivers to move into another lane if the trash collection vehicle has amber lights flashing. If it is not possible for the car to move past the trash collection truck in a safe manner, the driver must instead remain behind this vehicle and slow to a reasonable speed.

Since trash vehicles often stop many times on otherwise busy residential roads, the number of accidents associated with them has been on the rise. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, recyclable material and refuse collectors face the fifth-highest deadly work injury rate that is almost ten times greater than employees in other industries.

As these new laws take effect, Californians should expect to see changes on the roadway as vehicle users adapt their operation of vehicles, scooters and bicycles. Many of these laws were made to help respond to growing concerns about the greater incident of accidents. Anyone using or sharing the road should take note of these laws, and understand the legal consequences that may apply.

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