Auto Club: New Motorist Laws For 2009 Target Texting, GPS Devices; Also Increase Fees On Drivers

(LOS ANGELES, Dec. 26, 2008) - New laws taking effect on Jan. 1 in California will ban text messaging while driving, regulate the positioning of GPS devices in vehicles, and increase fees levied on motorists in a variety of categories, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Senate Bill 28 prohibits drivers from text messaging or e-mailing while driving. Fines for violating this law are at least $76 (including penalties) for a first offense and about $190 for subsequent offenses, depending on the county in which the violation occurred.
"The Auto Club supported this law because we believe it will help reduce the number of traffic crashes in the state," said Alice Bisno, the Auto Club's senior vice president for public affairs. "We encourage motorists to avoid all distractions while driving."
The Auto Club also sponsored a law in response to a member request to ensure that motorists are not unfairly penalized for parking violations that they did not commit. AB 2401 prevents a car owner from being held liable for a parking ticket or toll-evasion violation issued against a vehicle before he or she became the owner of the vehicle. Sufficient proof of non-ownership includes, but is not limited to, a copy of the sales agreement showing the date of the vehicle ownership transfer.
Another new law, SB 1567, requires portable GPS devices that are affixed to a vehicle windshield to be placed either in a seven-inch square in the lower right corner of the windshield or in a five-inch square in the lower left corner, while the vehicle is being driven. Motorists may still mount a GPS device on top of the dashboard as long as it doesn't block their view of the road. The device must not be placed so that it interferes with the deployment of an air bag. The fine for a violation is approximately $108 including penalties, depending on the county.
Most of the other new driver-related laws and regulations taking effect Jan. 1 involve fee increases.
"Unfortunately, this year's budget crunch in Sacramento resulted in a number of fee increases that target motorists," Bisno said. "It was perhaps inevitable that fees would be raised in light of the budget crisis, but the Auto Club opposes fee increases that disproportionately fall on drivers for non-motorist uses."
One law that the Auto Club opposed was SB 1407, which raises surcharges on traffic tickets by $35, "fix-it" tickets by $15, parking tickets by $3, and the court cost to attend traffic school by $25. The fee increases are being used to help pay for the construction and rehabilitation of courthouses. The vast majority of tickets are paid by mail or through bail forfeiture and most violators never set foot in a courthouse. The Auto Club opposed the measure because it is inequitable to place the burden of financing courthouse construction disproportionately on drivers who do not use court facilities.
Also, any vehicle purchased outside of California and brought into the state within 12 months of the purchase date is subject to the payment of a use tax (equivalent to a sales tax). Previously, the law imposed this tax only if the vehicle was brought into the state during the first 90 days of ownership. An owner can avoid paying this use tax by providing documentary evidence that he or she intends to use the vehicle outside the state. The state expects to receive approximately $20 million per year from this change in the law.
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest member of the AAA federation of motor clubs, has been serving Southern California since 1900. Today, the Auto Club's members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's Web site at