New year to bring new laws affecting motorists

The California Highway Patrol is alerting motorists to a number of new transportation-related laws or changes to existing laws that will take effect in the new year.

Most will become effective Wednesday. Among the new or amended laws are:

• A law prohibiting motorists from passing a bicycle with less than 3 feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or driver.

When maintaining a 3-foot distance is not possible, the motor vehicle must slow to a reasonable and prudent speed, and pass only when there is no danger to the bicyclist. Failure to do so can result in a fine, regardless of whether a collision occurs. This law will take effect Sept 16.

• The sunset dates will be extended to Jan. 1, 2019, for low-emission and zero-emission vehicles to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes without meeting the occupancy requirements.

• The statute of limitations for hit-and-run collisions in which death or permanent, serious injury results will be extended.

A criminal complaint will be filed within three years of the offense, or one year after the person was initially identified by law enforcement as a suspect, whichever comes later, but not more than six years after the offense.

• Counties will be authorized to increase registration fees by $1 for passenger vehicles and $2 for commercial vehicles to fund programs related to vehicle theft crimes in those counties.

• An amendment to current law authorizes issuance of a search warrant to draw blood from a person in a reasonable, medically approved manner to show that the person violated misdemeanor DUI provisions when that person has refused an officer’s request to submit to, or has failed to complete, a blood test.

This law has been in effect since Sept. 20.

• A new law prohibits a person younger than 18 from using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication while driving, even if it is equipped with a hands-free device.

• Effective Jan. 1, 2016, every limousine that has been modified or extended to accommodate additional passengers shall have two rear doors and one or two rear emergency windows that can be removed from the inside.

If the modifications occurred during or after July 2015, these requirements apply immediately after July 1, 2015. All new limousines manufactured after Jan. 1, 2015, also must meet these requirements.

• An expansion of the Amber Alert program, which will require law enforcement officials to request activation of the Amber Alerts warnings after receiving a report that a child has been taken or abducted by anyone, including a custodial parent or guardian, who may kill or cause serious bodily injury to the child.