California safety efforts get mixed reaction from governor

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/17/2013

Two bills in California that would benefit road safety received different responses from the governor.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed one bill into law allowing counties throughout the state to double a local fee on cars and trucks for vehicle-theft prevention.

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

Previously AB767, the new law authorizes fees throughout the state to increase from $1 to $2 for personal vehicles and from $2 to $4 for commercial vehicles. 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 can also use the revenue to prosecute drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter cases.

Critics said 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.

A separate bill vetoed by the governor called for boosting 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 $238.

AB902 sought to increase the fine to $100 and $490, respectively.

Gov. Brown said that he believes the higher fine is more punitive than deterrent.

“No showing has been made that piling on an additional $252 will protect anybody,” Brown wrote in his veto message.

Advocates said 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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