Be Aware of the New Driving Laws for 2013

The Golden State has long been known for its focus on driver and vehicle laws that are progressive to some and stringent to others, often exceeding federal health and safety guidelines. In early 2012, California added to its reputation for environmentally responsible vehicle emissions standards by mandating that 1.4 million electric and hybrid cars be on state roads by 2025. This new standard also requires that 1 in 7 new cars sold by that year be a hybrid or zero-emission vehicle.

California Car Rental Clients Take Note: Greater Safety on Our Roads

2012 also saw a number of bills introduced in the state Assembly and Senate that affect vehicle operation, and these came into effect as of January 1st, 2013. All drivers, especially our California car rental clients from out-of-state need to become familiar with these new driving laws. While some of these recent changes affect only special cases, there are a few that will likely apply to everyone behind the wheel at some point. 

Adjusting to Current Technologies

A couple of the new laws reflect the ever-evolving state of technology in both the personal and the automotive technology markets.

Hands Off

In a recent article, we made our California car rental clients aware of the state’s distracted driving regulations that affect owners of smartphones and other mobile devices, which is just about everyone. Physical interaction with a mobile device while operating a motor vehicle remains illegal, and we recommend to our California car rental clients that they simply avoid the distraction. However, the new law AB 1536 makes it legal to send and receive text messages while driving as long as the driver is using a hand-free device equipped with voice-control operation to dictate and to listen to messages. This doesn’t change the conditions for drivers under the age of eighteen who are prohibited from using a wireless device while driving, whether hands-free or not.

No Hands at All

Another new law, SB 1298 represents an advance in technology that is a little less commonplace but may eventually become ubiquitous. No, our California car rentals will not be flying just yet. This law allows autonomous vehicles–self-driving cars–on state roads for testing purposes. While this paves the way for future driverless operation on a larger scale, the law currently requires that a person be in the driver position and fully licensed to take control if necessary. At the moment, the main benefactors of this new law are car companies and technology developers such as Google, who received a license to test driverless cars in Nevada last year.

Safer Prom Nights

Some people just can’t resist the idea of a party-on-wheels. AB 45 affects any vehicle in which alcohol consumption is permitted in the passenger area, such as a chartered limousine or bus. Hired drivers must now ask whether any of the passengers will be under the age of 21 and inform them of the law for underage drinking. Also, whoever hired the charter service must appoint a guardian of at least 25 years of age if there will be underage passengers.

Enhanced DUI detection

We’re sure that our California car rental clients wouldn’t even consider getting behind the wheel while impaired. Another new law related to alcohol consumption, AB 2020 makes the detection and prosecution of offenders under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs more accurate. In most cases, determining a driver’s blood alcohol level will no longer be conducted by a chemical test of a urine sample. Suspects who are arrested will be required to submit to a blood test. This follows a trend in law enforcement favoring blood tests, which result in more accurate evidence than the urine test. The only exemptions to this law will be if a blood test procedure is unavailable, or in the case of someone having a documented health issue such as hemophilia, a heart condition or prescribed use of blood anticoagulants.

A Perk for Clean Driving

High occupancy, or carpool lanes exist all over the state as they do in many other locations. AB 2405 provides that owners of qualifying, low emissions vehicles may obtain a sticker that allows a car with a single occupant to use these lanes. Everyone wants to save time in getting from point A to point B, and by the New Year almost 9,000 people had received carpool lane stickers.

They’ll See You, and You’ll See Them

California car rental drivers may notice that red-light cameras are becoming more common throughout the state. SB 1303 adds restrictions for law enforcement agencies on the use of the cameras, requiring that signs that warn drivers of their existence be installed at a 200 foot distance from the intersection. However, the law also strengthens the use of camera evidence against offenders in a prosecution.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

The best way to stay safe and out of the gaze of law enforcement is to know the rules before you hit the road. While you’re deciding on a vehicle or are ready to make a booking, our staff is available to make sure our California car rental clients are well-informed.