New driving laws in effect in January

January 2, 2008 4:57:08 PM PST
There are a number of new laws going into effect at midnight. Many affect what you're allowed to do behind the wheel.

At trip to the California DMV in Oakland revealed an interesting mix of drivers -- some who were aware of the new rules, and others who were not.

ABC7's Nick Smith: "There are new rules going into effect starting January 1st, around driving, are you familiar with them?"

"No, not really," said driver Dorothy Frikes.

During the 2007 legislative year, 964 bills were passed and 750 of them were signed into law, including more than 167 changes to the California vehicle code.

"You can't talk on your cell phone while you're driving, you can't smoke in the car with children," said driver Ivy Hurkin.

ABC7's Nick Smith: "Wow, you're on top of it."

Ivy Hurkin: "I watch the news."

The most anticipated law of banning cell phone use without a hands-free device doesn't go into effect until later this year, but there are others hitting the books January 1st, that will have a direct effect on drivers who want to avoid seeing law enforcement's flashing lights in their rear view mirror.

"All these laws are about making the roadway safe and hold people accountable for being safe drivers," said Sgt. Les Bishop from the CHP.

Some of the popular ones starting January 1st, are "hidden license plates". The law will prohibit anything that would impair the recognition of a license plate by an electronic device.

Also going into effect, "SB-7" making it illegal to smoke in a motor vehicle where a minor is present -- violators can receive a fine of up to $100 dollars per person.

And "SB-67", authored by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, it's aimed at cracking down on illegal street racing and stunts called "sideshows" in which large groups of young people gather on city streets to watch drivers engage in speeding and spinning contests.

"We want safe and healthy roadways, everybody has that expectation, they should have that expectation and it gives us the ability to go out and enforce those laws and do everything we can to make the roadways safe," said Perata.

Which means that some motorists may need to brush up quickly on the new rules before getting back behind the wheel.