Each year, California lawmakers pass a number of laws and regulations intended to make the public safer or improve the lives of residents. In many cases, new laws will take effect at the start of the year. This means that as 2013 dawned, a number of new regulations became effective. In fact, there were a total of 750 new laws that took effect the first of the year according to the Los Angeles Times.
“These laws addressed a wide variety of issues ranging from added protections for Sikhs and Muslims who wear religious clothing to new traffic laws,” explained California car accident lawyer James Ballidis.
These new regulations were the changes made to driving and traffic rules in the state in 2013:
• A law making it possible for some illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in the state. Licenses are available to illegal immigrants entitled to a work permit under a new federal executive order. This includes those who came to the U.S. at age 16 or younger who are currently under 30.
• A law permitting drivers to show proof of insurance using their SmartPhone or other electronic devices rather than having to produce an insurance card.
• A law prohibiting the use of red light cameras exclusively for raising revenue. Drivers can more easily challenge tickets now as well.
• A law permitting drivers to send or receive texts while driving provided they dictate the text and otherwise make use of voice command or hands-free technologies.
The Impact on Safety
These new laws may have differing impacts on whether the roads become safer or not. For instance, the law making it possible for illegal immigrants to obtain a license may improve the overall safety of drivers on the roads.
When a person is required to obtain a driver’s license, he or she must undergo testing to determine fitness to drive. A person not permitted to obtain a license, on the other hand, might drive with no license or official permission to do so. An unlicensed driver might also drive without auto insurance, which poses major problems in the event that the unlicensed driver gets into an accident. The unlicensed driver likely would have insufficient assets to compensate the victim of the car wreck, potentially leaving that person responsible for the financial losses of an accident that occurred through no fault of his or her own.
An unlicensed driver might also make more dangerous driving decisions in an attempt to evade law enforcement, or might choose to hit and run when a crash occurs. By licensing more drivers and making it possible for illegal immigrants to obtain a license, the hope is that dangerous practices can be reduced so all drivers are safer.
The decision made by the state on texting, however, may make the streets less safe. Texting and driving is an inherently dangerous practice, with www.Distraction.gov indicating that the risk of a crash when texting is 23 times greater than the danger of an accident when not distracted. The law attempts to mitigate the risk of a texting and driving accident by requiring the use of a hands-free device. However, www.Distraction.gov indicates that it is not substantially safer to use a headset cell phone as compared with simply talking on a cell phone. Further, www.Distraction.gov also indicates that driving while on a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by as much as 37 percent.
There is no reason to assume that texting and driving will be any less distracting or any safer than any other hands-free use of a call phone or wireless device. As such, drivers who are using their hands-free device to text or to have text messages read to them may still present a danger to themselves or to others.
The new traffic laws, therefore, may help in making California drivers safer but there are still changes that should be made in order to provide maximum protection to people on the roadways in the state.
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