Starting Thursday, Keep Those Thumbs on the Wheel

This is another friendly reminder California's "no texting" law takes effect Thursday.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a total of 834 bills into law in 2008, according to the office of the secretary of the state Senate. New laws that take effect Jan. 1, 2009 involve issues ranging from maritime safety to rice production.

Some of the most prominent address driver safety, especially when it comes to the use of technology and gadgets by motorists. The text-message ban has gotten the most attention.

California Highway Patrol spokeswoman Jaime Coffee pointed out that the new ban on text communication on a mobile device while driving also affects drivers stopped at traffic lights.

"You are still operating the vehicle, therefore you should not be composing, reading or sending text messages," Coffee said. "The point is we want you to be able to react."

Those caught texting are subject to a $20 fine for first-time infractions, and $50 thereafter, but local jurisdictions' penalties, assessments and court costs "tack on probably three to five times more than that," Coffee said.

Another new law restricts where drivers can mount a global positioning system, or GPS, on a car windshield. Beginning Thursday, drivers must limit these devices to a seven-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield on the passenger side, or a five-inch square in the lower corner on the driver's side.

Drivers may still mount GPS devices on the dashboard or elsewhere in the car, Coffee said, but they should make sure it's not within the airbag deployment zone. Otherwise when a driver crashes and deploys the airbag, "your GPS now becomes a projectile and it's extremely dangerous."

Other laws include SB 731, which regulates massage professionals, and SB 685, which ensures Californians can provide for pets in their wills. 

Adam Keigwin, spokesman for state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, said Yee sponsored the pet bill after learning that many animals brought to San Francisco animal shelters belonged to deceased individuals.

While many people leave specific instructions for the care of pets, executors of trusts didn't always carry out those wishes.

"This gives the teeth of the law to pet trust," Keigwin said. "Hopefully this will cut down on the number of animals that are neglected."

Other laws taking effect Jan. 1 include the following:

  • 7AB 1165: Persons convicted of driving under the influence may not operate a vehicle with any alcohol whatsoever in their bloodstream.
  • 7SB 1720: It will be an infraction for anyone to forge, counterfeit or falsify a "Clean Air Sticker."
  • 7SB 1419: In San Francisco, 19th and Van Ness avenues, also designated as state Highway 1 and 101 respectively, become double fine zones for serious moving violations.
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