SOURCE: Automobile Club of Southern California

December 27, 2007 13:10 ET

Auto Club: California's New Laws for 2008 Include Cell Phone Restrictions, Driver Safety Improvements for Lost Car Keys

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - December 27, 2007) - California will usher in a host of new laws in 2008 related to traffic safety, driver behavior and vehicle fuels, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Among the laws taking effect on Jan. 1 is one that actually was signed into law in 2006. Senate Bill 1542 provides drivers of cars sold or leased after Jan. 1 with a convenient and safe system to obtain a replacement car key if their key is lost, stolen or damaged. The Auto Club sponsored the legislation to help ensure that motorists can replace keys quickly through a licensed, bonded, registered locksmith instead of being forced to wait hours or even days for the manufacturer or a dealer to make a replacement.

Two other important traffic safety laws will not take effect until July 1. SB 33 prohibits teens from using cell phones or any other "mobile service device" while driving; and SB 1613 prohibits all other adult motorists from using a cell phone while driving unless they use a hands-free speaking and listening system.

Motorist-related laws taking effect on Jan. 1 include:

--  Key Codes. SB 1542 gives motorists a convenient and secure option for
    getting replacement keys when theirs have been lost, stolen, or damaged.
    Automakers must provide, at any time, the key codes necessary for a
    licensed and registered locksmith to make a replacement key for vehicles
    sold or leased in California on or after January 1, 2008. Exceptions
    include automakers that sell fewer than 2,500 vehicles annually, and
    manufacturers that make their own keys -- i.e. BMW and Mercedes-Benz -- who
    have until 2013 to comply with the law provided that, in the interim, they
    send a replacement key by overnight mail.
--  License Plates. AB 801 makes it illegal to sell or use a product that
    obstructs or impairs the recognition of a license plate by an electronic
    device operated by police or toll authority, such as a red-light camera.
    The fine for obscuring a license plate is about $146, and the fine for
    selling such a product is $900.
--  School Zones. AB 321 will now allow local jurisdictions to adopt an
    ordinance establishing a speed limit of 15 miles per hour in a school zone.
    The 15-mph speed limit must be posted and applies up to 500 feet from the
    school. A 25-mph limit will apply at a distance of 500-1,000 feet from the
--  Street Racing. SB 67 reauthorizes a law that lapsed in 2006. It allows
    police to impound a vehicle for 30 days when a person is arrested for
    street racing, exhibition of speed, or reckless driving.
--  Smoking in Vehicles. SB 7 prohibits anyone from smoking a cigarette, a
    cigar, or a pipe in a vehicle, whether in motion or not, in which there is
    a minor.  The smoker can be fined up to $100. Police can only cite for this
    violation in connection with a stop for a suspected violation of another
    driving offense.
--  Traffic School. AB 645 prohibits a court from allowing a driver who
    commits a two-point violation from attending traffic school. Two-point
    violations include drunk driving, hit-and-run, speed contests, evading an
    officer, and vehicular manslaughter.
--  Gasoline Dispensing. Concerns about the high cost of gasoline have
    prompted scrutiny into whether gasoline loses fuel efficiency when it is
    stored, delivered or dispensed at a higher temperature than 60 degrees
    Fahrenheit. AB 868 requires the state to conduct a study on the effects of
    temperature on fuel deliveries and to report the study findings. When the
    study is complete, recommendations will be made to address its findings.

Motorist laws that will not take effect until July 1 include:

--  Cell Phones and Driving. SB 1613 prohibits the use of handheld
    cellular telephones while driving. Starting July 1, 2008, an adult driver
    may use a cell phone only if it has a hands-free listening and speaking
    system. Drivers ticketed for a violation will be subject to a fine of at
    least $70 (base fine plus penalties) for a first offense and at least $175
    (base fine plus penalties) for subsequent offenses.
--  Teen Drivers and Cell Phones. SB 33 prohibits drivers under age 18
    from using any cell phone or other "mobile-service device" while driving,
    even if it is equipped with a hands-free device.
    The term "mobile-service device" includes, but isn't limited to, a
    broadband personal-communication device, specialized mobile radio
    device, handheld device or laptop computer with mobile-data access,
    pager, and two-way messaging device. Teen drivers ticketed for a
    violation will be subject to a fine of at least $70 (base fine plus
    penalties) for a first offense and at least $175 (base fine plus
    penalties) for subsequent offenses. Unlike the ban on handheld cell
    phones, a law enforcement officer may cite a teen for a suspected
    violation of this law only in connection with another suspected driving
--  Alternative Fuels and Vehicle Technologies Funding Program. AB 118,
    which takes effect July 1, increases the smog abatement fee for newer
    vehicles and the vehicle registration fee paid by all motorists to fund a
    variety of motorist and non-motorist related purposes, including research
    into alternative fuels, alternative fuel-infrastructure projects,
    retrofitting large truck engines, and the removal of high-polluting
    vehicles from the road. This measure will require car owners to contribute
    well over $150 million per year until 2016, when the law expires.  The Auto
    Club opposed the law because the fee increases also will fund a variety of
    programs that have nothing to do with automobile use, ownership or

Contact Information

    Marie Montgomery
    Elaine Beno
    (714) 885-2333