The gang at the state Capitol scrambled this year to catch up with new transportation technology, from hoverboards to smartphone earbuds to electric bikes. Here is some of what they came up with. The new laws go into effect Friday:
State law already says you can’t wear “earplugs” or “headphones” in both ears while driving or riding a bike. Headphones may keep you from hearing things you ought to hear, such as the sound of approaching cars that might not yet be visible, or emergency vehicles, or honking horns, or that pedestrian you almost hit who’s shouting “Hey, watch out!”
But the law doesn’t use the word “earbuds.” We think it’s obvious if you aren’t allowed to wear headphones, you also can’t wear earbuds over both ears. But, apparently, it’s not obvious. So, the Legislature added “earbud,” closing a little loophole (Senate Bill 491).
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There are exceptions to the law, such as for emergency responders or hearing aid users.
Motorized skateboards – the old noisy, polluting kind that don’t have any brakes – have long been illegal in California. But what about the slick new hoverboards that plenty of people got as Christmas gifts?
A new law (Assembly Bill 604) says they are legal, but with a bunch of restrictions. For one, it’s now a crime to hoverboard while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Also, you have to be 16 or older to ride one. And you have to wear a helmet if you are riding one on public property. You are not allowed to go faster than 15 miles per hour. You can ride only on streets where speed limits are 35 mph or less, unless you are in a bike lane. The law says colleges can set up rules about use on campuses.
A conviction for violating this law carries a fine of up to $250.
Are these things a safety hazard, you ask? The state is wondering that too. The Legislature has asked the CHP to keep an eye out and report back in five years on traffic safety issues.
Another new law (AB 1096) says you also have to be at least 16 years old and wear a helmet when driving the more powerful electric bicycles on the market. Those bikes, newly designated as “Class 3” electric bikes, have motors that can boost your pedaling speed up to 28 mph. The less-powerful electric bicycles provide a motorized boost that stops when the vehicle hits 20 mph.
Hit-and-run incidents are common occurrences in California. A new law (AB 8) creates a special “Yellow Alert” notification to go out to law enforcement and the public when a report comes in that a driver has just injured or killed someone in a crash and then driven away.
Law enforcement will put information about a hit-and-run driver on freeway message boards, asking other drivers to be alert for the vehicle and to call in if they see it.
The state’s “Silver Alert” notification system is basically a public announcement of when a person age 65 or older has gone missing, possibly because the person is suffering dementia or is developmentally disabled. A new law (AB 643) allows the alert to be posted on freeway message boards if the missing person may be in a vehicle and if police have a good description of the vehicle.