New traffic laws for 2015

Welcome to 2015. Here are new traffic laws that aim to make roads safer for drivers and limousine passengers:
  • Driver license eligibility for undocumented U.S. residents -- Beginning Jan. 2, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will issue driver licenses to applicants who are unable to prove they are legal residents of the United States. However, these applicants are required to provide proof of identity and California residency, as well as meet all other qualifications for licensure. The law was written by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who was raised in Watsonville, and adopted during the 2013 legislative year. It's goal is to increase safety on the road by ensuring that all drivers are properly trained, know state traffic laws, pass the driving test and are insured.
  • Modified limousine safety requirements regarding regulations and/or inspections -- This law creates a modified limousine inspection program to be carried out by the California Highway Patrol. To be implemented by July 1, 2016, this law allows the law enforcement agency to collect a fee as it inspects modified limousines, defined as vehicles that seat not more than 10 passengers, including the driver, but have been modified, altered, or extended to increase the wheelbase of the vehicle, thus accommodating more passengers. These inspections will occur once every 13 months. The law also requires modified limos to be equipped with two readily accessible and fully charged fire extinguishers. Also, the driver or operator of the modified limo must notify the passengers of the safety features of the vehicle, including instructions for lowering the partition between the driver and passengers, and the location of the fire extinguishers. This bill by Senator Jerry Hill of San Mateo was in response to a deadly limousine fire that killed five nurses on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in May 2013. The deceased were among a group of nine ladies celebrating the recent nuptials of one of the passengers. The bride was among those killed in the fire. The CHP ruled the fire's cause was a catastrophic failure of the rear suspension system, in which the spinning driveshaft came into contact with the floor pan causing friction that ignited carpets, setting set the vehicle afire. The limo was legally able to carry eight passengers. Also, in June 2013, a similar incident occurred involving an eight passenger limo catching fire in Walnut Creek while carrying 10 ladies in their 90s. All escaped the vehicle unharmed. In these two incidences, neither limo was equipped with fire extinguishers and neither had been subject to CHP inspection.
What do you think about these new laws? Tell Street Smarts. Your thoughts may be published in a future column.
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