The start of a new year brings a new beginning, and come Jan. 1, there will be several new laws affecting Los Angeles drivers.
Signed in October, AB 1461 is a new automatic voter registration program through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Under existing law, a person cannot be registered to vote unless he or she gives a written statement or registers in person.
Under AB 1461, also known as the California New Motor Voter Program, the DMV will be required to electronically provide to the Secretary of State the records of each person who is issued an original or renewed driver’s license, or state identification card, or who provides a change of address.
Through the program, a person’s motor vehicle records would constitute written consent, and anyone who meets voting requirements will be automatically registered to vote.
A person can still choose to be exempted from the automatic registration process if he or she specifically declines to be registered to vote during a transaction with the DMV, and individuals can still change their party affiliation at any time.
With 6.6 million Californians who are eligible but not yet registered to vote, the law is an effort to increase voter participation.
Sandra Mendoza, public affairs coordinator for the Los Angeles City Clerk’s Office, said she believes the Motor Voter Program will increase voting turnout for the upcoming year.
“The city clerk’s office is very big on voter engagement and reaching out to people who are eligible to vote but haven’t registered yet,” Mendoza said. “This program is a major step forward for the voting process and will be instrumental in getting more people in the voting boxes in .”
Mendoza further noted that while the city will continue to do its own community outreach to increase voter participation, the new Motor Voter Program will be a great tool in getting residents registered.
AB 1465 requires an applicant for an original driver’s license or identification card to provide proof of California residency starting July 1, bringing the DMV into compliance with a federal law requirement. The DMV will adopt regulations to verify that an applicant is a California resident.
Also changing in 2016 are safety alerts. Initiated by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who represents the 43rd District, AB 8 allows local law enforcement broadcast a yellow alert emergency signal in the aftermath of a hit-and-run incident if it results in serious injury or death and the law enforcement agency has information concerning the suspect or suspect’s vehicle. The alert will broadcast information on vehicles suspected in a hit-and-run.
Gatto said he initiated the bill after he and his staff researched the number of hit-and-run incidents in California.
“It was just really bad. I went through communities throughout the state and a lot of people had the same stories,” Gatto said. “There have been so many people affected by hit-and-run accidents, and that needs to change.”
The law goes into effect after two years of research by Gatto and his staff and outreach to the state by victims and families affected by hit-and-runs.
One major supporter of the law is Los Angeles resident Damian Kevitt, who two years ago was hit by a car and dragged for nearly half a mile when the driver failed to stop. Kevitt was one of over 3,100 reported hit-and-run victims in 2013, according to statistics from the California Office of Traffic Safety.
“The epidemic of hit and runs turns the streets into a bloody battlefield,” Kevitt said. “This is a sensible law that will address a big problem.”
Kevitt said AB 8 is a simple and cost-effective law for the state because the system would only be broadcasted on a local level.
“It’s an inexpensive tool to help prevent hit-and-runs from happening and hopefully create more awareness about the problem.”
Gatto said he hopes law enforcement utilizes the yellow alert law because he believes the law will make a major impact on hit-and-run incidents.
“I hope law enforcement knows that this law exists now, and they utilize it to help save lives and bring people to justice,” Gatto said. “I hope it gets people to think twice about their actions, and if they don’t, their information will be broadcasted for everyone to see.”
In addition, California will impose stricter laws on headset and earplug use while operating a motor vehicle to help increase road safety. SB 491 prohibits a person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle from wearing earphones covering, resting on or inserted in both ears.
The law would not apply to individuals operating authorized emergency vehicles, construction equipment and refuse of waste equipment while wearing a headset or safety earplugs.
In total, 10 laws affecting California drivers will go into effect in 2016. For a complete list of these laws, visit www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/newsrel/newsrel15/2015_65.
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