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New laws to ensure child safety in vehicles, prevent bullying
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As the clock strikes midnight, hundreds of new laws will take effect in the State of California, governing tanning beds and concussions in youth sports, among countless other topics.

But perhaps the highest-profile law for 2012 is a provision requiring all children under age 8 – unless they stand at least 4-foot 9-inches tall – to be secured in a car seat or a booster seat in the rear seat. That’s more stringent than the past standard requiring children to be 6 years old or weigh 60 pounds to avoid travelling in a safety seat.

The new law also requires the seat to be installed in the rear seat, unless the vehicle has no back seats, the restraint system cannot be properly installed, or the rear seat is already occupied by children under age 8.

“Our hope is by educating the public of these new traffic safety laws in advance, more lives will be saved in the new year,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.

Children age 8 or older may use traditional seatbelts, assuming the belt fits properly with a lap belt low on the hips, touching the thighs, and a shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest.

“Everyone must be properly buckled up as a passenger in any vehicle,” said Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokesperson. “A driver can be fined more than $475 and get a point on his or her driving record for each child under 16 years of age who is not properly secured in their vehicle.”

AAA advises the use of a rear-facing car safety seat from birth through age 2, or until children outgrow the seat’s maximum allowed height or weight. Then, forward facing car safety seats are recommended until outgrown.

Belt-positioning booster seats follow, which children should use until they are 4’9” tall and between 8 and 12 years of age. Lap and shoulder seat belts should only be used when they fit properly, and all children under age 13 should ride in the back seat.

Children may never ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger airbag if they are under one year of age, weigh under 20 pounds, or are riding in a rear-facing child safety seat.


Other new laws for 2012 govern:

·         Tanning beds: Californians under age 18 will be banned from using ultraviolet light-based tanning beds, unless prescribed by a doctor as medically necessary.

·         Youth concussions: Student athletes who appear to have suffered a concussion or other head injury must immediately be removed from play. They may not return unless a licensed health care professional provides written approval.

·         Gay bullying: School districts must adopt a uniform process to address gay and lesbian bullying. School employees must intervene if they witness bullying.

·         HPV vaccine: Californians age 12 or older may consent to medical treatment without parental approval, if that treatment prevents sexually transmitted diseases. The law is intended to allow young women to obtain the human papillomavirus vaccine.

·         DUIs: Courts may revoke a driver’s license for 10 years if that individual has been convicted of three or more DUIs. Drivers may reapply for a license after five years, if an Ignition Interlock Device is installed.

·         Electric Vehicles:  EVs must be plugged in when occupying an EV parking space, or they may be towed. Others may not block, obstruct, or bar access to EV spaces.

·         Double white lines: Vehicles may not cross double parallel solid white lines.

·         Reckless driving: Those convicted of reckless driving may apply for a restricted license before a one-year suspension is completed, should the driver install an Ignition Interlock Device in his or her vehicle.

·         Sobriety checkpoints: Drivers must stop for sobriety checkpoints, but police may not impound vehicles if the driver’s only offense is a failure to hold a valid driver’s license. Drivers must attempt to identify the registered owner before the vehicle is released, however.

·         Self-checkout alcohol: Californians may no longer purchase alcoholic beverages at self-checkout registers.

·         Cough medicine: Minors may not purchase products containing dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant which may cause hallucinations or loss of motor skills when abused.

·         Credit checks: Employers may no longer check the credit of job applicants, unless applicants are seeking employment for a financial institution, law enforcement, or the Justice Department. Exemptions to the law exist for employees who would have access to bank or credit card accounts, proprietary information, trade secrets, more than $10,000 cash, or would be a manager in some industries.

·         Parent-child relationships: Courts may consider the relationship of a child and a non-biological parent when determining child rights cases.

·         Foundation transparency: Auxiliaries and foundations related to California State University, University of California, or California Community Colleges will be subject to the Public Records Act.

·         Handgun open carry: Citizens may no longer open-carry unloaded handguns, as police are unable to determine if those weapons are loaded. Violators face a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. The open carry of rifles and shotguns is still allowed, and an exemption allows for open carry handguns at gun shows or for those permitted to carry loaded weapons in public.

·         Higher-education gay rights: State universities and colleges must protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students from harassment, and must appoint employees to manage such claims.

·         Transgender laws: Transgender Californians may more easily petition for a change of gender on official documents, and receive further protections in education, housing, and employment.

·         Domestic partnerships: Grants equal rights to domestic partnerships as heterosexual marriages, including health benefits.

·         Judicial applicant demographics: Requires potential judges to indicate gender identity and sexual orientation, ensuring state courts are diverse.

·         Gay divorce: If a gay couple, married in California, will not be granted a divorce by their current state of residence, California courts will have the jurisdiction to grant that divorce.

·         Foster care: Foster care now extends through age 21; it previously expired at age 18. The federal government will pay the additional costs.

·         Epilepsy: School employees may voluntarily be trained to administer an antiseizure drug. Parents must request the drug be administered.

·         Shark fins: Shark fins may no longer be imported into the state. Those in the state may be sold or used until a July 2013 deadline, when shark fins are banned.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.