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Tough new laws for texters, teens, drunks





The New Year ushered in new laws across the nation.  Changes range from faster speed limits to harsher penalties for drunks and texters.

California

Over 800 new laws went into effect in the Golden State.  Drivers could be affected by:

  • Transfer of ownership of a vehicle to a relative or revocable living trust is now prohibited until all toll-violations or parking fines and penalties known by the DMV are paid by the transferee.  This will keep drivers from evading paying for toll or parking citations by just transferring the title of a car to another family member. 
  • Teenage drivers under the age of 18 are now prohibited from using an electronic wireless communications device to read, write or send a text-based communication while driving -- even if with a hands-free device.  Teens, thus can't engage in voice-activated texts, which previously was allowed.  This law also closes a loophole teens had been exploiting of using a tablet or laptop instead of cellphone behind the wheel.
  • The statute of limitations increased for hit-and-run collisions that result in serious permanent injury or death from three years to six years from the date of the accident.
  • Going into effect Sept. 16, 2014, when passing a bicyclist drivers will be required to provide three-feet of clearance between any part of the vehicle and the bicycle.  If a motorist is unable to provide this minimum passing distance -- due to roadway or traffic conditions -- then the driver must slow down to a “reasonable and prudent speed” Base fine for a citation is $35, if the bicyclist is injured due to violating the law the fine can increase to $220.

Colorado

Everyone may be talking about Colorado's recreational marijuana laws that started on Jan. 1, but other laws also went live on this day.  One specifically concerning drivers that drink.

  • As of Jan. 1, drivers who are caught with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher (down from the previous threshold of .17) or refuse to take a test of breath, saliva, blood or urine (as required by law) will be labeled a persistent drunk driver.  This designation comes with heftier fines and penalties.
  • A persistent drunk driver continues to need to complete a Level II alcohol and drug education and treatment program. But now once driving privileges are restored the driver must hold a restricted license that mandates the use of an ignition interlock device.
  • The one-year waiting period has been reduced to one month, for drivers over the age of 21, to apply for early reinstatement of their driving privileges with an ignition interlock-restricted license for persistent drunk drivers. The waiting period is now only two months for those who refused tests.

Connecticut

New laws concern vehicles with snow and ice on them and distracted drivers:

  • The day before the New Year, Connecticut enacted a law requiring commercial motor vehicle to remove snow from the roofs, trucks and hoods or the operator could be fined from $75 to $1,250.  The stiffer penalties ($500 to $1,250) are reserved for when flying elements cause personal or property damage.  Parked vehicles and vehicles already in motion when snow, sleet or freezing rain starts are exempt.
  • Fines have been increased for motorists who use a handheld cellphone or other electronic device while driving.  A first offense will now be $150, a second $200 and subsequent convictions a fine of $400 to $500.  The new law requires the DMV to place the conviction violation on a driver's motor vehicle record and assess at least one point.
  • Also, distracted driving laws were updated to prohibit drivers from using their cellphone when a vehicle is temporarily stopped due to traffic, road conditions or traffic signal devices or signs.

Illinois

Drivers may go faster, but need to stay off their cellphones.

  • The maximum speed limit on toll-roads and interstate highways was increased from 65 mph to 70 mph.
  • Drivers are prohibited from using an electronic handheld device in any capacity while operating a motor vehicle on a roadway unless a hands-free device is used.  Previously, it was just illegal to use a hand-held cellphone in construction and school zones for adult drivers. The law continues a ban on wireless device use by drivers under age 18 and texting while driving for all drivers.
  • New cellphone law is a primary offense that comes with a fine of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense and $150 for each subsequent offense.  After a fourth offense, the Secretary of State has the power to suspend a person's driver's license.  A first offense is not considered a moving violation, but subsequent offenses are.

Iowa

Teen driving laws updated.

  • All young drivers are required to carry an instruction permit for a full year, up from just six months, before they can apply for an intermediate license. 
  • Unsupervised young drivers are now only allowed one unrelated minor passenger during the first six months of holding an intermediate license. 
  • Young drivers with a minor school license are also restricted to just one unrelated minor passenger when driving without adult supervision.
  • A different law transitions full driver's license from being valid five years to eight years, excluding minors and temporary foreign nationals.  At age 72, though, licenses shift to a two-year renewal period.

Nevada

New laws include a driver authorization card.

  • Nevada residents unable to meet citizenship requirements for a standard driver's license can apply for a driver authorization card. The DMV is prohibited with sharing information for immigration enforcement purposes.
  • Validity for most drivers' licenses will lengthen to eight years from just four.  Drivers age 65 or older will still continue to renew their license every four years. 
  • New legislation requires the driver's license written exam to include a question on the state's law prohibiting texting or use of a hand-held cellphone while driving.

New Hampshire

A new law requires anyone driving with a passenger under the age of seven to make sure the child is properly fastened and secured by a child-restraint system, unless the child is at least 57 inches tall.  Previously, it was age six and 55 inches tall.

Oregon

Don't smoke if you have kids in your car.

  • As of Jan. 1, smoking in a motor vehicle when a person under the age of 18 is present is illegal.  The fine is $250 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.  It is a secondary offense.
  • Fines for texting or using a handheld cellphone while driving have been raised to a maximum of $500 by raising the offense from a Class D to Class C traffic violation.

Vermont

Points and fines for distracted driving offenses have increased.

  • The state made it illegal to use handheld portable electronic devices when driving in posted work zones.  The fine is between $100 and $200 for a first offense and $250 to $500 for a second or subsequent violation within a two-year period (the same fine amounts that went into effect for texting while driving in July 2013).
  • Points for certain “distracted driving” violations have increased. The state will assess two points for a first offense of using a portable electronic device in a work zone and five points for a second or subsequent offense. Texting while driving will now be assigned five points for a first offense.  Previously, it was two points for your first ticket and then five points for any subsequent violations for texting.
  • On May 1, 2014, it will become illegal to allow your vehicle to idle for more than five minutes in any 60-minute period, while the vehicle is stationary.  Exceptions are granted for certain types of vehicles, such as military and buses, and situations. For example, if idling is necessary to operate safety equipment, maintenance purposes or if traffic conditions cause a vehicle to remain stationary.

The New Year ushered in new laws across the nation.  Here is a sampling of new laws in various states that will affect motorists.

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