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Follow the law when pimping your ride
With warmer, sunny weather a couple months away, some people may be thinking about sprucing up their ride. Perhaps, they'd like to add some tint to their windows and headlights, switch out their stereo system for something with a little more kick and/or make their exhaust system purr like a kitten. Anyone thinking about making changes such as these to their vehicle should take the law into account before spending any money. Below is a list of California Vehicle Code sections that govern how far drivers can push the pendulum when it comes to modifying their ride, provided by officer Sarah Jackson, spokeswoman for the CHP office in Aptos. Tinted windows, vehicle code section 26708(a) states that, “A person shall not drive any motor vehicle with any object or material placed, displayed, installed, affixed, or applied in or upon the vehicle that obstructs or reduces the driver’s clear view through the windshield or side windows.” Window tint is a safety concern, Jackson said. “I have seen drivers with tinted side windows fail to see other vehicles – especially motorcycles and bicycles – and pull out in front of them,” she said. “It is also more difficult to see through tinted windows at dawn, dusk or nighttime.” Vehicle code section 26101 governs tinted lighting or light covers. It provides that “no person shall sell or offer for sale for use upon or as part of the equipment of a vehicle, nor shall any person use upon any vehicle, any device that is intended to modify the original design or performance of any lighting equipment, safety glazing material, or other device, unless the modifying device meets the provisions of Section 26104.” “Covering or tinting your lighting makes you a hazard on the road,” Jackson said, because the modified lighting can prevent people from seeing you at night from the front and/or rear. Anyone thinking about ramping up their sound system should look at vehicle code section 27007. It reads, “No driver of a vehicle shall operate, or permit the operation of, any sound amplification system which can be heard outside the vehicle from 50 or more feet when the vehicle is being operated upon a highway, unless that system is being operated to request assistance or warn of a hazardous situation. This section shall not apply to authorized emergency vehicles or vehicles operated by gas, electric, communications, or water utilities. This section does not apply to the sound systems of vehicles used for advertising, or in parades, political or other special events, except that use of sound systems on those vehicles may be prohibited by a local authority by ordinance or resolution.” “I get more 'thumbs up' and positive feedback from others on the road when I stop a vehicle for excessively loud music,” said Jackson. “Some cities within Santa Cruz County have even tougher restrictions with higher fines than the section I listed.” Having an exhaust system that violates vehicle code section 27150 would mean that your vehicle does not have “an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise.” The law also states that “no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device.” Similar to the section on sound systems, “you need to be able to hear emergency vehicles and excessive noise is a nuisance to those around you,” Jackson said. “You also need to be in compliance with emissions regulations.” Another thing people do to their car or trucks is remove or tweak their fenders and/or mudguards. Vehicle code section 27600 prohibits any motor vehicle with three or more wheels, any trailer, or semitrailer from being on the road unless they have “fenders, covers, or devices, including flaps or splash aprons.” The goal is to “effectively minimize the spray or splash of water or mud to the rear of the vehicle.” All such equipment must be at least as wide as the tire tread. “Have you ever had a rock kicked up on your windshield?” Jackson asked. “Chances are, this came from a vehicle without proper fenders or mudguards. Even small bits of road debris can be injurious or even fatal, not to mention the potential property damage when sent flying by a spinning tire.” Violating these sections could run a minimum of $114, plus added fees. However, the sound system violation could run $154, while the exhaust violation could cost up to $1,000 if the driver uses a whistle tip exhaust modification system. These fines also carry added court fees and penalties.