California nears adoption of road safety efforts

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/26/2013

California state lawmakers have approved two bills that would benefit road safety.

One bill on its way to the governor’s desk would allow counties throughout the state to double a local fee for vehicle-theft prevention.

California law already authorizes Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties to charge more to fight vehicle theft.

The Assembly voted to endorse changes to a bill that would authorize fees throughout the state to increase from $1 to $2 for personal vehicles and from $2 to $4 for commercial vehicles. AB767 now moves to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Senate lawmakers already approved the fee that appears on vehicle registrations.

The revenue pays for county programs to “deter, investigate, and prosecute vehicle theft.”

The increase in local revenue would amount to about $19 million annually.

Counties around the state with populations under 250,000 could also use the revenue to prosecute drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter cases.

Critics say that although vehicle-theft prevention is important to public safety, they don’t want a tax disguised as a fee that’s intended to cover the costs of vehicle registration.

Another bill headed to the governor would boost the fine for violating the state’s “move over” rule.

State law requires vehicles approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights to move into a lane away from the vehicle. If unable to change lanes, the driver is required to reduce speed.

The current fine for failure to make way for emergency personnel is $50. After tacking on court fees and other costs, the total penalty is $279.

AB902 would increase the fine to $100 and $489, respectively.

Advocates say a bigger deterrent is necessary because violations haven’t slowed.

State records show that more than 1,500 tickets were handed out in 2012 – up from 1,200 tickets two years earlier.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California, click here.

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