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New Laws: California and Nevada

California and Nevada state legislators have passed a number of new laws affecting motorists. California laws go into effect January 1, 1998, except as noted. Nevada’s laws already are in effect, except as noted. Utah’s legislature meets early in 1998; most new Utah laws go into effect July 1, and VIA will publish a summary of them in the July/August issue. A digest of motoring laws is available for inspection at AAA district offices. Complete legal codes are available from the Legislative Counsel of the State of California and the Nevada State Legislature. Here are some of the highlights:



Teen licensing: Sponsored by AAA, the Brady-Jared Teen Driver Safety Act of 1997 (Senate Bill 1329, Leslie, R-Tahoe City) implements a graduated licensing program for teen drivers. Goes into effect July 1, 1998. Under this law, teens:

  • Must hold a permit for six months before applying for a provisional license.
  • Must practice for a minimum of 50 hours, 10 at night (certified by a parent or guardian).
  • Cannot transport other teens for 6 months unless accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 25.
  • Cannot drive between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. for the first 12 months unless accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 25.

Under the previous law:

  • Teenagers had to hold a permit for 30 days before applying for a license.
  • There was no minimum requirement for practice hours.
  • There was no nighttime driving restriction.
  • There were no passenger restrictions.

Enforcement of the Brady-Jared Act is based on a secondary violation, not a primary offense. This means that the teen driver will not be stopped by an enforcement officer solely because he or she is suspected of being in violation of Brady-Jared.

The law includes exemptions to the nighttime driving restriction for work, school, medical, and family reasons. Also, the family exception allows teens to carry family member passengers.

Safety belts: The existing seat belt law and child passenger restraint law are extended to apply to any passenger vehicle, motor truck, or truck tractor (with the exception of sleeping berths) under AB 1289 (Cardenas, D-Sylmar).

School buses: Under AB 1297 (Morrow, R-Oceanside), school bus drivers must activate flashing red signal lights and the stop signal arm at all times when the bus is stopped for the purpose of loading and unloading students, regardless of whether they must cross the street.

Red lights: The base fine for running a red light increases to $100 under Assembly Bill 1191 (Shelley, D-San Francisco). Penalty assessment fees on a $100 fine bring the total cost of the violation to $270. Subsequent offenses would be subject to the same fine.

Drug offenses: The DMV is authorized to suspend immediately or delay the driver’s license of any person for six months on receipt of a court abstract showing that the person has been convicted of any specified controlled substance offense under AB 74 (Bowler, R-Elk Grove). Each successive offense is to be followed by an additional six month suspension. This last provision becomes inoperative on June 30, 1999, and is repealed on January 1, 2000.

Registration fees: Vehicle registration fees increase by $1 effective November 1, 1997, under AB 1591 (House, R-Hughson). Effective September 1, 1997, the law also increased vehicle transfer fees by $2. The transfer fees increase an additional $2 in 1998 and $1 more in 1999.

The vehicle registration fee goes up $1 in any county adopting a specified resolution for the support of local programs to provide automated mobile and fixed location finger print identification systems under SB 720 (Lockyer, D-Hayward). The fee authority sunsets January 1, 2003.

Traffic violator school: Persons ordered or permitted to attend traffic violator school must pay an additional $24 fee between October 6, 1997, and the end of September, 1998, under SB 162 (Haynes, R-Murietta).

Bridge tolls: Tolls on Bay Area bridges owned by the state (this does not include the Golden Gate Bridge) will rise by $1 under SB 60 (Kopp, I-San Francisco). The increase, in effect for eight years, is to contribute toward seismic retrofitting of the bridges.

Gas tax: All nine Bay Area counties can vote on a gas tax increase not to exceed ten cents per gallon under AB 595 (Brown, D-Sonoma). The tax would stay in effect for 20 years. The proceeds would be used on transportation improvements, maintenance, road, and mass transit projects.

New car exemptions: A package of bills changes California’s Smog Check law: AB 1492 (Baugh, R-Huntington Beach) exempts cars up to four model years old from having to comply with biennial smog checks and allows "Gross Polluters" to be eligible for a one-time repair cost waiver and places a $450 cap on repair costs. In addition, AB 1492 repeals the option a new car owner had to pay a $39 donation fee for an exemption from the first biennial smog renewal inspection requirement.

Repair caps: Low income auto owners with potentially high-cost smog repairs get a break under AB 57 (Escutia, D-Bell) and AB 208 (Migden, D-San Francisco). They provide for a program to assist low income motorists by capping their out-of-pocket smog repair costs at $250, instead of $450, and create an economic hardship and repair fund. Vehicles exempt from the smog certificate requirement because they are four model years old or newer are subject to an annual smog abatement fee of $4.

Older model exemptions: Cars built before 1974 (rather than 1966 under previous law) are exempted from having to comply with biennial smog checks under SB 42 (Kopp, I-San Francisco). Beginning in 2003, cars 30 or more model years old are exempted. This means the cutoff age for exemption would move up one model year annually.


Used cars: A used car retailer must inspect for soundness and safety the engine and drivetrain of any car with an odometer reading of 75,000 miles or more and disclose in writing any defects found under Assembly Bill 178 (Buckley, R-Las Vegas).

Dealers must also provide a written warranty to correct any defect in a component or system of the engine or drivetrain for between two days or 100 miles and 30 days or 1,000 miles depending on the vehicle’s odometer reading at time of sale.

Driver education: Drivers under age 18 must complete a course in driver’s education and 50 hours of parent/guardian certified experience in driving with an instruction permit under AB 404 (Cegavske, R-Clark). This provision is effective October 1, 1998.

The bill exempts those between 16 and 18 from the driver’s education requirement if the public school in which the licensee is enrolled is in a county of less than 35,000 population or in a city or town with less than 25,000 population and the public school does not offer driver’s education.

Speeding fines: The penalty for a speed violation in a construction zone is doubled when workers are present under AB 456 (Committee on Judiciary). The maximum penalty is a $1,000 fine and six month’s jail time or 120 hours of community service work. The bill also requires a notice of the zone be posted at the beginning and end of such a zone.

DUI: Known as the "zero tolerance law," AB 584 (Committee on Judiciary) provides for an immediate 90-day suspension of the driver’s license or permit of a person under the age of 21 when driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or greater.

Nevada’s Supreme Court has interpreted that state’s DUI law to preclude out-of-state DUI convictions from being counted. For example, a person with four California DUI convictions who for the first time is convicted for DUI in Nevada, would be considered a first-time offender.

AB 241 (Buckley, D-Las Vegas) is intended to clarify that an out-of-state DUI conviction counts as a DUI conviction under Nevada law as it relates to persons eligible for entering a drug and alcohol treatment program and receiving a deferred sentence.The goal is to stop serious offenders from being accepted into a treatment program and receiving a lesser sentence.

New car deadline: When a new car is purchased, it must be registered with the DMV in ten rather than twenty days under AB 131 (Committee on Transportation). The bill also requires new car dealers, rather than buyers, to collect and submit to the DMV the fee for a certificate of title.

Drug offenses: AB 176 (Cegavske, R-Clark); a court must suspend or delay a minor’s driving license for 90 days to two years for possession, use, selling, or purchasing of drugs (controlled substances) or alcoholic beverages.

Speeding fines: The fine for a person driving in excess of the posted speed limit by not more than 5 mph, except in a county with a population of 100,000 or more, is limited to $25 by Senate Bill 137 (Rhoads, R-Elko). Any such violation is not recorded as a moving violation with the DMV, so can have no effect on insurance rates.

Classic Cars: Owners of certain older cars and of five or more cars benefit under SB 430 (Washington, R-Reno). The bill exempts restored vehicles with "old timer," "street rod," "classic rod," or "classic vehicle" special license plates from emissions standards and testing. However, it does require the state’s environmental agency to set criteria for condition and functioning of the restored vehicles and authorizes them to require an evaluation conducted at an authorized inspection station. The bill also reduces the $33 per car registration fee for each fifth and subsequent car registered to a person.

Unpaid tickets: Under current law, the DMV is required not to renew a vehicle registration when unpaid parking tickets exist. Formerly, a person could pay his fine plus an additional DMV fee at the time of renewal at a DMV office. Under SB 366 (Committee on Transportation), the fine must be paid to the local authority before registration renewal.

Proof of insurance: Nevada law provides for cancellation of a vehicle’s registration unless proof of insurance exists. The recently instituted system of insurance verification ran into problems which are addressed by AB 36 (Carpenter, R-Elko).

Among the provisions is elimination of the $50 reinstatement fee for erroneous registration cancellation, provision for greater accuracy when the DMV matches its information with an insurer’s information, and authorization for an owner’s insurance agent, as well as an insurer’s home office, to verify insurance.

Under the old system, when a motorist was advised by the DMV that the state was unable to verify insurance, the owner had 10 days to return insurance information to the DMV. That time limit is doubled to 20 days under the new law. And it allows an additional 15 days when a second notice from DMV is received. In addition, the owner of a dormant vehicle must cancel the vehicle’s registration before canceling the insurance.


This article was first published in January 1998. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.