California nears new rules to improve congestion, target hit-and-run offenders

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/16/2013

Two bills headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk would improve congestion in Southern California and target hit-and-run offenders. One more bill on the governor’s desk would provide driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally.

The Assembly voted 69-1 to move a bill to the governor that would free up carpool lanes to all highway users in the Los Angeles area during non-peak hours and weekends. Senate lawmakers already approved the bill that would affect traffic on the 134 Freeway from Studio City to Pasadena and on the 210 Freeway from Pasadena to Glendora.

AB405 would set up a pilot program similar to how Northern California limits carpool usage between 6 and 10 a.m. and again between 4 and 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Assemblyman Paul Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said that carpool lanes are supposed to provide an incentive for carpooling during peak travel hours, and be good for the environment.

“I support these goals. But when motorists are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic at midnight while carpool lanes sit empty, those goals are not met,” Gatto said in a news release.

The Southern California program would run from Jan. 1, 2014, to May 21, 2015.

Another bill from Gatto addresses concerns about fatal hit-and-run crashes. Assembly and Senate lawmakers voted unanimously to send a bill to the governor that would double the statute of limitations for such crimes from three years to six years.

“AB184 will allow victims of hit-and-runs and law enforcement to obtain justice from cowards who do everything possible to avoid responsibility for their actions,” Gatto said in a news release.

Current law allows motorists who flee the scene of an accident to simply “run out the clock” to avoid all criminal liability for seriously injuring or killing another person in a hit-and-run.

The legislative action follows seven hit-and-runs deaths over three weeks in the city of Los Angeles and another five in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

According to a bill analysis, 4,000 hit-and-run incidents a year in Los Angeles city lead to injury or death.

Gatto said the accident victims deserve justice.

One more bill awaiting the governor’s signature authorizes the state to offer driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally.

“This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” Brown stated.

AB60 requires a special mark and notation on licenses. The notation would state the document “does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefit.”

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

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