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New Year Brings New Laws to California

Changes taking effect in 2013 include allowing drivers to talk or text with hands-free devices, and to show electronic proof of insurance

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

State law will attempt to keep in stride with ever-changing technology in 2013, with the new year bringing two smartphone and hands-free device laws for drivers.

Included in the list of hundreds of laws that will go into effect Tuesday, drivers can now use hands-free technology to talk and text while driving.

They can also use an electronic device, such as a smartphone, tablet, etc., to show proof of insurance and registration when requested by law enforcement.

A full list of bills the Legislature passed into law in 2012 can be viewed by clicking here.

California Highway Patrol officer Rob Miller said he expected the new cell phone driving law to affect the most Santa Barbara County residents. 

The existing law, which prohibits drivers from using any type of electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication, has been changed to allow the use of devices that are specifically designed to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send or listen to a text-based communication.

“Some phones are equipped to talk or text, as long you have a wireless device,” said Miller, who is based in Santa Maria. “If you can sit there and talk and drive with two hands … I guess that is safer; less distracting.”

Miller said drivers should also be aware of an update to the child-booster-seat law, which went into effect last January.

The law holds all private hospitals, clinics and birthing centers to the same standard as public institutions, which are required to provide and discuss contact information regarding child-safety-seat requirements, installation and inspection to parents and caregivers upon discharge of a child younger than 8 years old.

Last year’s law requires parents or drivers transporting a child under the age of 8, or 4 feet, 9 inches in height, to be in an appropriate child passenger restraint system. That law replaced a requirement that all children under the age of 6, or 60 pounds, be in a booster seat.

Miller said all CHP stations offer free booster seat inspections by appointment or at special events.

“People just aren’t educated on the child-safety stuff,” he said. “We get people who don’t have any idea about it.”

A few other notable laws:

» Driving under the influence. The law no longer allows a person who has been arrested and is suspected of driving under the influence of drugs the option of a urine test. Prior to this change, a person had the option of submitting either urine or blood to determine the drug content of their blood.

» Emergency services. Similar to an Amber Alert, the CHP would activate a “Silver Alert” upon request if a person, age 65 or older, is reported missing to a law enforcement agency, and that agency determines that certain criteria are met. The criteria include the person is missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances or the law enforcement agency believes the person is in danger due to age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions; the person is in the company of a potentially dangerous person; or there are other factors indicating that the person may be in peril.

» Health care. A provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, calls for a new 2.3 percent levy on the sale of certain medical devices by the manufacturer or importer. The tax is set to be imposed beginning Tuesday.

» Driver’s license. This law allows a driver’s license applicant who provides satisfactory proof that his or her presence in the United States is authorized under federal law, but who is not eligible for a Social Security number, to receive an original driver’s license if he or she meets all other qualifications for licensure.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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