Drop the phone, and other new laws



OMG, it’s no LOL-ing matter. As of Jan. 1 California drivers will have to keep their thumbs on the steering wheel and off their cell phones.

Since July, it has been illegal to drive while talking on the phone without a hands-free device. Texting used to be OK, so long as texters weren’t violating other traffic safety laws. Now, anyone caught texting and driving will be hit with a $20 fine for the first violation and a $50 fine for a second, but that’s just to start. After all the court fees and state-mandated penalties are factored in, the actual tickets will cost $103 for a first offense and $212 thereafter.

In SLO County, the California Highway Patrol has issued 208 cell phone tickets since July. Statewide, the CHP issued 40,169 tickets.

Local legislators Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee and Senator Abel Maldonado both voted against the no-texting bill.

The bill is just one of 772 new California laws that will go into effect in 2009. Among others:

• People who use Global Positioning Systems will be able to more freely slap gadgets on their windshield. GPS devices will be added to a list of exempt items that can be stuck to a car windshield. Not that drivers will be able to put a portable navigation toy just anywhere; the legislation limits the devices to a five-inch square in the lower driver’s side corner or a seven-inch corner in the lower passenger’s side.

• Recyclers could get stuck with a $5,000 fine if they collect from people without getting valid identification and an address. Assembly Bill 1778 makes it a crime for recyclers and junk dealers to pay more than $100 for newspapers, and more than $50 for CRV containers, such as bottles and cans, without paying by check, and checking for valid identification and an address.

It was enacted primarily to stop recycling “theft” and “scavenging” in San Francisco neighborhoods, according to the bill’s author, San Francisco Assemblywoman Fiona Ma.

One local homeless man featured in a recent New Times article who supplements his monthly government assistance by recycling said the law probably would not affect him. Even with a truck-full of bottles, the man said he usually does not break the minimum dollar amount to trigger the new law. He believed that other recyclers with bigger loads could easily split their hauls to avoid the hassle of providing ID and being paid with a check.

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