Texting, Lasers & Horse-Drawn Buggies: A 2017 Traffic Law Primer
As we usher in 2017 with a new president, a new White House cabinet and a whole bunch of people arguing over politics, it’s easy to forget that the November election also resulted in a pile of new traffic regulations. Here’s a state-by-state look at some of the most exciting new laws for 2017. Let’s start with one of the strangest:
As of January 1st, 2017, it’s now make it illegal to point a laser beam at a car in the state of New Hampshire. So, you’ll want to abandon any elaborate, laser pointing freeway schemes in the “Live Free Or Die” state. You should probably just focus on driving under the speed limit. As of this year, New Hampshire drivers now pay fees up to $400 for driving just 20 mph over the posted limit.
If you think that’s steep, try living in Pennsylvania. As of January 1st, the state enforced an $.08 wholesale tax on all gasoline sold. The good news is that the state also voted to do away with registration stickers in favor of a super-cool automated license plate reading technology, saving the state millions.
In New York, voters decided it was time to get serious about window tinting. As of this year, auto shops in the Empire State are now required to incorporate window tint evaluation into every vehicle inspection. New York also made a large change to its organ donor policy by changing the legal age from 18 to 16. Thus, young drivers can now agree to become donors when applying for a learner’s permit without having to wait until they get their license.
The general assembly in the tiny, sea-side state of Rhode Island decided to take an aggressive stance on race relations and law enforcement in 2017. Their law requires that during every traffic stop, the race of the parties involved must be documented and stored in a database. This data will then be compiled into an annual report to review and combat racial disparities in this New England state.
If you’re planning on driving in Utah without insurance, you may want to think again. The state just passed a measure requiring police to impound uninsured drivers on the spot!
While many states seem to be tightening their regulations, the Peach State offers a more relaxed approach. Georgia residents now have eight years between driver’s license renewal. If you think that’s sweet, how about the $32 renewal fee? That makes driving in Georgia a real bargain at only $4 per year.
Only four U.S. states enter 2017 without laws that ban texting while driving. Texas, Missouri, Montana and Arizona either have no law at all or leave the details up to the local jurisdictions. New to Texas, however, is a law that bans new drivers and school bus drivers from texting or making calls behind the wheel.
Meanwhile, California passed a texting and driving initiative that’s left many of its residents baffled. The new state-wide law bans any driver from holding a phone while driving. Simple enough, right? However, the exception to this rule include situations where "the driver’s hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the handheld wireless telephone or wireless communications device with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger." Wait. What? Isn’t texting a feature or a function? What about Snapchat? That remains to be seen.
Vermont’s new 2017 law focuses on protecting “vulnerable users” of the state’s roadways by mandating that drivers allow a 4-foot clearance when passing. It all sounds quite simple until you read that the examples of "vulnerable" include “pedestrians and horse-drawn buggies.” The law’s architect, however, clarifies that the measure was mainly written to protect cyclists.
Finally, after much debate, Arizona has taken their red light and speeding cameras off their roads and highways. 2017 enables individual towns and cities to reinstall the cameras if they choose. However, new laws also make it legal for Arizona residents to choose to ignore these citations. Arizona will, however, be installing new safety corridors in construction zones with a zero tolerance mandate.
If you’re confused by all of this, you are not alone. Here are a few tips on how to keep legal as your drive from state to state. Watch the speed limit, stay off your phone, leave your laser pointer at home and don’t mess with the horse and buggy. Most importantly, enjoy the drive.