Legal bares new laws, updates for 2009

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- California has passed new legislation that will hopefully make roads safer. 

Some of these newly enacted pieces of legislation include texting while driving, fines regarding highway workers, Global Positioning System mounts, alcohol reckless driving and motorcycle definition. 

Texting while driving 

California State Bill 28 specifically bans the use of electronic wireless communication devices to write, send or read text-based communication. Such items include cell phones, personal digital assistants, MP3s or anything else that can send text messages while driving motor vehicles. The bill imposes a base fine of $20 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. According to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Banning electronic text messaging while driving will keep drivers' hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, making our roadways a safer place for all Californians." 

Previously texting while driving was illegal for individuals under 18 years of age, but now it has been expanded to all drivers. This bill compliments an existing law signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006, which requires motorist to use hands-free devices while talking on mobile phones when driving motor vehicles. Individuals who must check text messages before arriving to their destinations, should play it safe by pulling over to the side of the road in a legal parking spot, and turning off the car. 

Increased fines regarding highway workers 

According to new California law, SB 1509, the maximum penalties for assaulting and battering any California Transportation Highway Workers went up to $2,000 for assault and $5,000 for battery with possible jail sentences for both of up to one year. 

The legislation defines assault as, "an unlawful attempt to commit a violent injury on the person of another" and battery as, "any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another." Legislators noted that there have been, "...assaults with a paint ball gun, a BB gun and jumper cables. There has also been a recent instance of a knife attack, and numerous cases of objects being thrown at workers by passing motorists. 

There have been several instances of vehicles swerving into a closed lane to threaten workers, and in multiple cases, vehicles have struck workers causing severe injuries. Most recently, an individual brandished a fire arm at a group of Caltrans employees." 

In order to avoid any of these new penalties, drivers should be respectful of highway workers and slow down while traveling through construction zones. 

Global Positioning System mounts 

Prior to 2009, mounting a GPS device to the windshield was illegal in the state of California. Now, SB 1567 allows for the mounting of a GPS to either side of the windshield in a lower corner, either a 7-inch square on the passenger side or a 5-inch' square on the driver's side. No GPS device can be placed inside the car in a manner that obstructs the deployment of an airbag. The law still prohibits mounting the device to the center of the car's windshield, the most common place to affix any GPS device. 

Alcohol reckless driving 

A new law requires the court to order a person convicted of alcohol-related reckless driving to participate in a licensed driving under the influence program for at least nine months if that person has had a prior conviction for alcohol-related reckless driving within 10 years. Additionally, the court is required to revoke the person's probation for failure to enroll in, participate in, or complete a licensed DUI program. 

Motorcycle definition 

A new law changes the definition of a motorcycle, deleting the existing weight limitation of 1,500 pounds. It also removes a separate definition for electrically-powered vehicles. This change in law will also allow drivers of fully-enclosed 3-wheeled motor vehicles to use high occupancy vehicle lanes. 

For more information, call the Edwards Legal office at 277-4310. 

(Second Lt. Tieu Myers contributed to this story)