New California Driving Laws for 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – New rules that govern the California driving public will go in effect on January 1, 2013. These rules are the product of legislation passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 2012.

“The changes to California’s traffic safety laws are designed to protect the motoring public,” said California Highway Patrol (CHP) Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Citizens are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these new laws in advance of the new year. Adhering to the rules of the road may save your life, or the lives of your fellow motorists.”

The following are summaries of some of the new laws taking effect January 1, 2013:

Driving Under the Influence : (AB 2020, Pan)
The law no longer allows a person who has been arrested and is suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs, the option of a urine test. Prior to this change, a person had the option of submitting either urine or blood to determine the drug content of their blood.
Charter-Party Carriers of Passengers: Alcoholic Beverages: Open Containers : (AB 45, Chesbro)
This new law prohibits underage drinking in charter-party carriers (limos, buses, etc.) and makes the carrier and driver responsible for communicating this to their passengers. The law also requires a designee, who is at least 25 years of age, to be present whenever there are passengers who are under 21 years of age on board the vehicle and alcohol is being transported. The designee shall be responsible for ensuring the rules are followed, and the safety of the underage passengers throughout the duration of the trip.
Electronic Wireless Communications : (AB 1536, Miller)
This law allows California drivers to use hands-free technology to talk and text while driving. This will require the use of a device that is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send or listen to a text-based communication. The device is required to also be used in a voice-operated, hands-free manner to be in compliance with the law.
Financial Responsibility and Insurance : (AB 1708, Gatto)
Drivers will now have the option of providing proof of insurance or verification of financial responsibility on an electronic device (smartphone, tablet, etc.), when it is requested by law enforcement.
High Occupancy Toll Lanes : (AB 2405, Blumenfield)
This law creates the Choose Clean Cars Act, which allows cars with a Clean Air Vehicle Sticker free access to carpool lanes that are converted to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.
Autonomous Vehicles : (SB 1298, Padilla)
This new law allows driverless cars to be operated on public roads for testing purposes, provided that each vehicle has a fully licensed and bonded operator in the driver’s seat to take control if necessary. The bill also instructs the Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations that govern the licensing, bonding, testing and operation of autonomous vehicle technology.
Emergency Services: Seniors : (SB 1047, Alquist)
Similar to an AMBER Alert, the CHP would activate a “Silver Alert” upon request if a person, age 65 or older, is reported missing to a law enforcement agency and that agency determines that certain criteria is met. The criteria includes: the person is missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances or the law enforcement agency believes the person is in danger due to age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions; the person is in the company of a potentially dangerous person; or there are other factors indicating that the person may be in peril. Finally, there is information available, if given to the public, may assist in the safe recovery of the missing person.
Driver License : (AB 2189, Cedillo)
This law allows a driver’s license applicant who provides satisfactory proof that his or her presence in the United States is authorized under federal law, but who is not eligible for a social security account number, is eligible to receive an original driver’s license if he or she meets all other qualifications for licensure.
Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems : (SB 1303, Simitian)
This new law establishes consistency in the operations of red-light enforcement cameras throughout the state by requiring governmental agencies to follow specified guidelines regarding intersections, signage, and the notice to appear.
License Plates: Obstruction or Alteration : (AB 2489, Hall)
This new law prevents the altering and positioning of license plates from its original markings and clarifies the penalty imposed for obscuring the readability of license plates.
Child Passenger Restraints : (AB 1452, Hill)
Hospitals, clinics, and birthing centers will now be required to provide and discuss contact information regarding child safety seat requirements, installation, and inspection to parents and caregivers upon discharge of a child, if the child is less than eight years of age.
There are also two new laws related to recreational off-highway vehicles.
One (AB 1595, Cook) defines an off-highway motor vehicle to include a recreational off-highway vehicle (ROV) and establishes additional requirements governing its safe operation. The other law (AB 1266, Cook), which goes into effect July 1, 2013, prohibits a passenger in an ROV from riding in a seat location not designed and provided by the manufacturer. It also prohibits operation of the ROV if the passenger is not seated with both feet on the floorboard and able to grab the occupant handhold with the seat belt and shoulder belt or safety harness fastened.
Additional Registration Fees : (AB 1404, Feuer)
This law authorizes three counties (Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino) to increase vehicle registration fees to help fund vehicle theft programs. Increases would be from $1 to $2 for passenger vehicles, and $2 to $4 for commercial vehicles.
Inflatable Restraint Systems : (AB 1854, Brownley)
This law makes it illegal for a person to knowingly distribute or sell a previously deployed air bag or component that will no longer meet the original equipment form, function or proper operation.
Driving Under the Influence: Alcoholic Beverage or Drug : (AB 2552, Torres)
Although this change in the law does not take effect until January 1, 2014, it distinguishes whether an individual was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Ultimately this change, singling out drugs with its own subsection in the Vehicle Code, will make it easier to track the prevalence of drugged driving in California. This new law, coupled with the efforts requiring the use of Ignition Interlock Devices, will help reduce impaired driving throughout California.

These points are only a synopsis of some of the new laws adopted. For complete information on chaptered bills enacted in 2012, please refer to the Legislative Counsel website at

Self-Driving Cars in our Future?

Google Robocar Racetrack RideI don’t know about you but I like the idea of a driverless car. While my commuting days are behind me, I can definitely see the advantages. I think the reality is that California missed the boat when it comes to mass transportation and we need something that uses what we have to deal with the constantly increasing number of people that need to get from point A to point B and self-driving cars might just be the ticket. Plus, I like the idea of taking a nap on the way.

Future Impact of Self-Driving Cars Would Be Big: Study

“Know Your Plan” App Makes Disaster Prep Easy

Damaged house following Feb 22 quake by martinluff, on FlickrSince the basic idea of insurance is “what if?”, disaster preparedness is a natural topic. With some events, like earthquakes, it’s not a question of if but when. Preparedness isn’t a goal but a process. The idea is to keep working on it little by little. While our family may be better prepared than most, I still find it hard to stay with it. The Insurance Institute has put together an iPhone app that helps you work through a plan to get yourself and your family prepared.

“Know Your Plan” from the Insurance Institute

Workers Compensation rates on the rise in 2012

stack-of-moneyWhen payrolls are low, rates tend to go up since there’s less payroll to spread out the costs of injuries. Here in California, we have seen a couple of double-digit increases in the advisory rates put out by the WCIRB and the Department of Insurance in the past year and it looks like there’s another one coming.

California bureau to recommend 12.6% increase for workers compensation premiums

There is apparently some work being done behind the scenes in Sacramento to address the escalating cost of Work Comp, so hopefully there will be some relief soon.

Workers’ Comp Deal in the Works for California

US Open of Surfing 2012 Awards in HB

Events like this are why I stay on our, quieter, side of HB during much of the summer.

Spectators lined the pier and filled every inch of sand in Huntington Beach for front-row seats to watch as nine-long days of surfing action came to a close Sunday afternoon with the finals of the prestigious U.S. Open of Surfing.

Why do I need General Liability insurance?

This is a question that I’m sure is on the mind of most businesses that have let their insurance lapse for one reasons or another. It’s understandable; no one enjoys paying for insurance, not even insurance agents. But it really is a necessity for nearly all businesses.

So, just what does a Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy cover? Well, here is one definition: “A standard insurance policy issued to business organizations to protect them against liability claims for bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD) arising out of premises, operations, products, and completed operations; and advertising and personal injury (PI) liability.”

Show your customers that you are serious

Having General Liability insurance shows your customers that you take your responsibilities seriously. True, there will always be fly-by-night outfits that quote the cheapest prices. What if an accident happens? Their price probably won’t seem so low if there is no insurance to pay for damages or injuries. We’ve personally seen claims on $1,000 policies that run upwards of $250,000. If you are unfortunate enough to have one of these accidents, that $1,000 policy won’t seem so expensive, will it?

Make your landlord happy

Most landlords require General Liability insurance to protect themselves in the event someone or something is harmed by you. If yours hasn’t been watching it’s really only a matter of time before they do.

Foundation of any business’ insurance program

A standard CGL covers everything except what is excluded. There are various exclusions, such as automobile (’cause it’s normally on a separate policy) and pollution (for hazardous materials such as asbestos since most businesses wouldn’t want to pay for the coverage anyway). What’s good about the CGL policy is that it covers all bodily injury or property damage claims unless it’s specifically excluded and that’s why it is the foundation for most businesses. If some of the risks excluded apply to your business you can add those particular coverages.

Helps prove that a subcontractor isn’t just an employee on a 1099

For those of you in the construction trades, the issue of Employee versus Sub-Contractor has been raging for a very long time. Many times an employer will want to declare an employee to be a subcontractor in order to reduce their Workers Compensation or payroll tax costs. However, government agencies such as the IRS, EDD, CSLB and WCIRB are well aware of the temptation. Unfortunately, each has their rules and guidelines. Maintaining their own CGL policy is one strong factor that shows that your subcontractors really are subcontractors. We also recommend that you insist on them adding you as an Additional Insured on their policy for your protection. Then, it would be their policy to provide defense in the event of an accident involving them.

As I mentioned earlier, nobody enjoys paying for insurance. If you never have any claims, it’s just a worthless piece of paper. On the other hand, if there is an accident that piece of paper will be golden.

Is that Worker an Independent Contractor or an Employee?

The question of whether or not a particular worker is an Independent Contractor or an Employee is one that we frequently discuss with our clients. Unfortunately, there are no pat answers. The checklist below can help give you a better idea where you stand.

This is because there are several agencies that you have to deal with and because they don’t publish hard and fast rules, only guidelines. There are many factors involved and a wide variety of contracting situations.

That being said, there certainly are factors to consider. Keep in mind that not meeting any one item isn’t necessarily going to be the deciding factor. The table that follows comes from information in the IRS 20-factor test. The more statements that are true in one column or another regarding your relationship with the worker indicates whether the relationship leans towards Employment or Sub-contracting from the IRS point-of-view. From the perspective of the CA Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB), item #13 is of particular importance. In general, the more weight you have on one side the stronger your case will be.

An Employee usually A Contractor usually
1 has to follow your instructions as to when, where and how they work can get the job done as he sees fit based on the contract
2 is trained by you is already qualified to do the work
3 does the same work as your business often is used to do specialized work you don’t normally do
4 can’t subcontract out work can hire sub’s as needed
5 doesn’t hire assistants can hire employees as needed
6 works for you over long or regular periods of time does work for you sporadically
7 works for you at the hours you set can set his own hours
8 is required to work full time can work for whomever and whenever he wishes
9 works at your premises or at place you designate usually has their own place of business
10 has to do their work in the order or sequence you specify can decide sequence for themselves for the desired result
11 has to provide reports does not have to account for themselves
12 is paid by the hour, week, or month is paid by the job
13 doesn’t have to pay business and travel expenses pays his own business and travel expenses
14 is provided tools, materials, or equipment provides his own tools, materials and equipment
15 has little or no investment in his own tools and equipment has a significant investment in tools and equipment
16 cannot suffer a loss has the risk of a possible loss instead of a profit
17 works for you only works for multiple customers, including you
18 doesn’t offer his services outside of your employ offers his services out to the general public
19 can be fired at any time during a job have limitations on firing per their contract
20 can quit work at any time without any liability cannot walk away from a job without a financial risk