California Motorists Face New Laws in 2002

December 31, 2001

California motorists will face a number of new state laws enacted this year, including laws supporting child passenger safety, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

“Many of the new laws target safety and children, distracted driving, red light enforcement, highway memorial signs, impounded vehicles and uninsured motorist coverage,” commented Alice Bisno, the Auto Club’s vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs. “We believe they will benefit California children and motorists.”

The following are among the new laws taking effect Jan. 1, unless otherwise noted:

Distracted Driving: AB 770 requires that law enforcement officers report on instances of driver distraction or inattention that may have caused or contributed to a traffic collision, including cell phones, electronic devices, radios, smoking, eating, children, animals, personal hygiene or similar distractions. The California Highway Patrol will compile the data and report its findings and recommendations by Dec. 31, 2002. The Auto Club supported the measure.

Children Unattended in Vehicles: Supported by the Auto Club, SB 255, “Kaitlyn’s Law,” prohibits leaving a child six years of age or younger in a motor vehicle if conditions present a significant risk, the engine is running or the key is left in the ignition. Penalties include a $100 fine, part of which will be used to develop and implement programs to educate the public about the dangers of leaving children in vehicles.

Impounded Vehicles: AB 360 provides that a vehicle impounded because the driver had no license or a suspended license shall be released to the registered owner before the end of a 30-day holding period if the driver reinstates or acquires a driver’s license and provides proof of insurance. The Dept. of Motor Vehicles and the California Highway Patrol must conduct an education campaign to notify the public that vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers are subject to impoundment. The Auto Club supported the measure.

Highway Memorial Signs: Allows immediate family members to request Caltrans to erect a “please don’t drink and drive in memory of…” sign in memory of a relative lost in a crash caused by drunk or drug-related driving. The sponsoring family must pay all costs for placing and maintaining the sign.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage: SB 81 extends uninsured motorist benefits to policyholders injured by their own vehicle when the vehicle is used without the policyholder’s permission during the commission of a crime, such as car-jacking. To prevent fraudulent claims, the motorist must file a police report.

Mediation of Insurance Claims: SB 708 extends the mediation program established by the Dept. of Insurance for the 1994 Northridge earthquake claims to auto and residential insurance claims. To be eligible for the program, the claim must exceed $7,500 and the amount in dispute must exceed $2,000.

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